What is the story about?
Struggling fashion entrepreneur Samaira Jal teams up with her friend Anita to start a dressmaking workshop at Hindmata Women's Prison. While Anita is driven by altruistic concerns, Samaira wants to train the inmates to make clothes so that she can sell them at a profit and rescue her business from drowning. The inmates, however, have problems of their own, and their rough behaviour is often at odds with Samaira's upscale, genteel personality. Can Samaira and the inmates work together for a common cause?
It's really sad, and even infuriating at times, to see the makers of a show squander its intriguing premise and put out a final product that is middling at best. The concept of a dramedy focussed on the lives of the inmates of a women's jail could have been a crackling one. We have seen very good examples of the same before: the women's jail sequences in Sriram Raghavan's Ek Hasina Thi and the Disney+ Hotstar show Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors immediately come to mind. The makers of Hindmata, however, get their gaze totally wrong at the outset. A lot of screen space is wasted on Samaira's troubles with her business and her run-ins with her manipulative ex-business partner Sufiyan, and after a point, this feels tiresome. This faulty gaze costs the show dearly, because devoting too much screentime to Samaira's arc means you don't get enough of the inmates, whose camaraderie and fights are more interesting. Also, there are a number of themes, such as overcrowding of prison cells, lack of health and sanitation facilities for women and so on, which are barely touched upon, but never fully explored. Hindmata could have soared more if more attention was paid to these issues. Unfortunately, it remains an average affair.
The performances are a mixed bag. Trupti Khamkar holds the show together as the repressed, cantankerous inmate Kalika Satpute who still has a heart of gold. Kajal Khanchandani and Surbhi Jolly play her best friends Peeli and Jali very well, while Naina Sareen is also great as another inmate. Jayashree V. is alright as Anita, and one wishes there was more of her in the show. Bharat Bhatia plays the cross-dressing jailer Pathak with relish, and it is hilarious to watch him shimmy to the Omkara track Namak Ishq Ka in a scene. Shubhangi Litoria is alright as the hard-nosed, often caricaturish lady constable Basanti. However, Rashi Mal's performance as Samaira grates on your nerves after a while, while Manasi Rachh's Sudha is an ill-developed character.
Music & Other Departments
Deepa Tuli's production design is okay. Kushal Banerjee's cinematography is alright. The title track, composed by Yash Narvekar, gives this show an edge.
There are a few scenes which stand out. My favourite is the one where Sudha carries on her lone protest about overcrowding, while Kalika eagerly participates in the music video put together by Samaira and Anita. When Sudha gets cheered on by others, she tells Sudha that dancing is her act of rebellion against patriarchy, as compared to Sudha, who's rebelling by protesting.
Too many themes are touched upon in a span of six episodes, without devoting adequate space to them. Also, the extra emphasis on Samaira's arc robs the inmates, and even Anita, of some much-needed characterization.
I also felt that the ending could have been better, because the show seems to end abruptly.
Did I enjoy it?
I found the antics of the inmates endearing after a point.
Do I recommend it?
You can watch this if you have nothing better to do.