Modern day parenting can resemble a gladiator sport and Bollywood actress Karisma Kapoor’s glossy web series debut ‘Mentalhood’ captures it in all its bloody glory.
Kapoor plays Meira Kapoor, an alpha mother of three kids from Kanpur who moves to South Mumbai and struggles to gain acceptance among tiger moms from her kids’ elite, posh school. She’s an outsider amid seemingly accomplished and sophisticated mothers.
‘Mentalhood’, which premiered in March on Zee5 Middle East, chronicles the highs and lows of competitive parenting weaved in with their personal stories.
The series, which is often labelled as the vanilla version of HBO’s mammoth hit ‘Big Little Lies’ minus the murder cover-up, offers a window into the lives of young mothers who are trying to jump through parenting potholes with a smidgen of grace and with their sanity intact.
“With my web series debut ‘Mentalhood’, I wanted to prove that you are not alone in this journey of motherhood. I wanted other women and men to know what a mother goes through on a daily basis as a mother,” said Kapoor in an exclusive interview with Gulf News over the phone.
While the series begins as an amicable women-centric show with uber-competitive, type A mothers, the show also touches upon shrouded domestic violence and sexual abuse of children.
“Even though it’s a light-hearted show, there’s a great message around it. So many sensitive topics like bullying, surrogacy, gender fluidity, exam-fever and the daily stressors for mothers and children have been covered in our episodes. Ask any mother around the world and they would instantly identify with the women in this show.”
The episode in which Kapoor’s character innocently brings a tonne of the ghee-laden Indian breakfast staple ‘aloo paratha’ (flatbread stuffed with potato) for a school event, only to get snubbed by other mothers for not choosing healthy alternatives like organic kale smoothie or oats pancake is comic gold.
Meira’s genuinely flummoxed face proved that parenting is a path paved with stones and shame.
The series marks Kapoor’s debut into the streaming world. Kapoor, who has two children, is a single parent in Mumbai and has been on a self-imposed sabbatical in her entertainment career.
The Indian National Award-winning actress, who has starred in blockbusters including ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, 'Fiza' and ‘Zubeidaa’, takes pride in being a ‘hands-on’ mother.
“If I were to work again, I wanted to something meaningful and something that the audience would remember me by. Although I have been offered multiple we shows, ‘Mentalhood’ really touched me. Meira is so human. She makes mistakes and choices that may be right or wrong for the family. We have shown her strengths and her weaknesses.”
The women in ‘Mentalhood’ may come across as tinny and shrill at first, but they grow on you as the series progresses.
If actress Sandhya Mridul’s character is that supercilious, salon-perfect parent body president, actress Shilpa Shukla plays a career-oriented working mother who is subtly bullied by her stay-at-home counterparts. However, a reluctant sisterhood emerges among those disparate, privileged and petty mothers as they try to make sense of child-rearing towards the end.
“Just like every mother out there, they stumble and makes their own mistakes along the way … Every day is a new day of learning for them. The series also shows that even if we judge each other as mothers, we still know how to stand by one another when the time comes. ‘Mentalhood’ signifies sisterhood too,” said Kapoor.
So, what kind of a mother is she in her own life?
“I am a disciplinarian. We [sister Kareena Kapoor and I] grew up with some great discipline and some good value systems. I want to instill that same set of good values. I want my children to my grounded and I am very involved in their lives … I didn’t act all these years out of choice because I wanted to stay home with my kids. A movie is a huge commitment where you spend around 80 to 90 days shooting. I didn’t want to do that at that point of time. Now that my kids are older, I now feel a lot more comfortable.”
The series also addresses the intrinsic rivalry and mutual disdain between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers.
“Let’s all be fair here. Stay at home mothers have a tough job too. There’s a lot to be done where they are home to look after their kids, their in-laws and their husband’s needs. A working mother hasn’t got it easy either. All mums and dads are superheroes in my eyes. Let’s judge less.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Mentalhood’ is streaming on Zee5 Middle East now.