Woo, Dino! I like him so much more as an actor now than I did when he was young. And his character adds an interesting texture to the show as a whole. Can’t wait to see what they do with him! (index of all Mentalhood reviews here)
Episode 1 established Karisma as the new girl in school, finding her way in the super competitive rich mothers world. And also finding her way in a new town with no friends or family around. We met Sandhya Mridul, the top mother at school, married into a top Bombay family and a full time mother. And we met Shilpa Shukla, top businesswoman and working mother, and old friend/enemy of Sandya.
Now we get a little more! The school is putting on the annual fete, all the mothers are assigned a booth and compete as to who can bring in the most money. Sandhya is organizing it and torturing all the other mothers who are running around trying to please her and show off their perfection at the fete.
The strain of the family hosting a booth together comes out in everyone’s marriages. Karisma and Sanjay have some light strain, which reveals other strains that are now past. Back in Nagpur, his mother wanted Karisma to stay home and take “better” care of her children. And Karisma’s mother wanted Karisma to stay independent and not rely on her husband. They moved to Bombay to start fresh, just their little family. And now Sanjay is rolling his eyes at how quickly Karisma has gotten pulled into the life of the women at school and is leaving him behind. But it’s not really a problem (at least, not yet), just something to fight about a bit and then forget. The family pulls together and ends up hosting a booth where kids put paint on their faces, and then rub it off on a white t-shirt to create a design, which is a massive hit.
Meanwhile, Tillotame Shome (you know her as the young mother in A Death in the Gunj) gets some more detail for her character. She was one of the first women to befriend Karisma in a yoga class, and the one who gave her the background information on the power mothers at the school. She has high fashion clothes and make-up, feels rich. But she doesn’t have the confidence of the other mothers, more likely to be friendly and open one on one but silent in a group.
In the first episode, we saw her husband demand she come downstairs and serve food to him and his brother, and her asking him to send the children away while he was drinking, which he ignored. In this episode, we learn that her sons are bullying Karisma’s son. Karisma talks to her, and Tillotame begs her not to do anything. The school has a zero tolerance policy and she is terrified her sons will be expelled. She explains that her husband is rich enough to not work, and instead sits and drinks and watches sports with his brothers all day. He refuses to discipline the boys and they are running wild. Her only lifeline is this school where she has control over them and the boys get outside influences. Karisma understands, and the boys work things out between each other without involving the school.
This is interesting! The first time the mother group at the school is positioned as a place to gain power, and escape, instead of the problem. Tillotame may not like these women that much, but she needs the connection to the outside world and the school is the only place she can get it.
We get a little more on the other women as well. Shilpa Shukla is getting threatening phone calls from a lower class woman (we see her sitting on the streets) about “her” daughter. She doesn’t want to go on her business trip and leave the daughter alone, but her husband insists she go because HIS company needs the money (because he isn’t as good a businessman as she is). There are cracks in her marriage, and some mysterious danger is threatening her daughter.
Sandhya at the end of the first episode leaves her home after a fight with her husband to find comfort with another man, in a way that makes it seem like this is routine. In this episode, we see more fighting, including her husband insulting and dismissing her in front of the children. She insists that he participate in the school fete, because that is the deal. She supports him in public, he supports her. He reluctantly agrees, but the mysterious man shows up at the fete too. And the other mothers explain to Karisma that he is a friend of the family, just around a lot and helping Sandhya. Huh to that!
And finally, Shruti Seth (she played the party worker who has sex with Arjun Rampal in Raajneeti!) gets some background. She was the teacher at the yoga class where Karisma met Tillotama, and is another mother at the school. Now we learn she is divorced and fighting with her ex over custody of their children. Not a lot of background on her yet, but we are getting there.
Most interesting to me is the one scene with all 5 mothers together. It’s brief and seems to be post-yoga class. Doesn’t super make sense with the dynamic established, Sandhya and Shilpa as enemies, but maybe indicates they are really closer to frenemies? Anyway, it’s interesting seeing all 4 of them. Tillotama and Shruti are the younger ones of the group, Tillotama is quiet in public while Shruti is quick to anger and speak out. But when Shilpa and Sandhya start sniping at each other, everyone else stays out of it.
This is an entirely female show by the way. Female producer, female writer, female director, and female name star (Karisma). So I assume the female friendships and female group will continue to come more and more to the fore.
Female, but with the token man. We get to meet a new “mother” at the school this episode! Dino Morea! Introduced as the “star” of the school (making Karisma think maybe she is finally going to meet the illusive movie star Aryan Khanna). He has 4 year old twins and no co-parent in site. And he designed a successful video game, thus letting him be a stay at home cool parent. And he thinks Karisma is cool, after seeing how she handled the bullying situation. The episode ends with him sending Karisma a text about how neat he thinks she is and Karisma smiling.
If this turns into Dino being part of the “friend” group and an additional support for Karisma and Tillotama and Shruti, great! But if this turns into Dino and Karisma starting an emotional affair, also great! Because DRAMA.