If C/O Saira Banu, the curious title of Antony Sony's directorial debut, had invoked in you memories of the sensational Shayara Bano case going on in the Supreme Court, you were right for one reason. The film featuring Manju Warrier in the title role is a court drama, though partially.
But if you assume that it has got something to do with the triple talaq issue, especially after seeing the actor with a headscarf, then you got it wrong.
C/O Saira Banu is all about a mother -- a complex identity here -- and her attempts to save her son from a legal trouble which could dash his long-nourished dreams. And you come to know about all these only in the second half after a rather feel-good first half which spends too much time establishing characters and their relations.
Saira Banu (Manju Warrier), a postal assistant by profession, is a single parent who lives with her jolly, loving son Joshua Peter (Shane Nigam). Joshua is more of an aspiring photographer than the law student he is. Banu, as her son fondly calls her, and Joshua share a pleasant life throughout the first half until the inevitable moment of crisis comes calling.
The turning point -- a moment quite expected in a film celebrating a joyful parent-kid relationship -- paves way for more troubles which land Joshua behind the bars.
The film picks up pace and offers some moments of anxiety when Bano becomes compelled to explore all options to help Joshua out of the clutches of the law. That she is going to win is not a big secret for it's a movie made using the popular mold. But the 'how' of it is something that makes the film worth spending a couple of hours and a sum for its ticket.
The hurdles before Bano are many - her own ignorance of the system, an army of the evil-minded which is equipped with money and muscle power and a moral dilemma. Her attempts to save her innocent son may land another one in trouble. But eventually, she overcomes all the struggles and emerges as a super woman out of the ordinary lady that she was -- a trait of several of Manju's films post her comeback.
Placed against Manju is Amala Akkineni for whose comeback the film was celebrated much during the pre-release days.
Amala dons the garb of an eminent lawyer -- Annie John Tharavadi who has a great sense of ethics. The crisis which has entangled Bano and her son turns out to be one for Annie as well, making the film a tale of two mothers fighting the ill-fate fallen upon them.
While both Manju and Amala go for matured performances as expected from them, it is Shane who steals the show. After his stunning portrayal of an agitated young man in Kismath, Shane transforms himself into an innocent, lovable and cool guy this time. The moments of bonding between Shane and Manju have been conceived and delivered well throughout the film, though they look a tad repeating at times. The chemistry between the actors work near-perfect.
The thought behind the casting deserves applause not only for bringing back Amala onto the Malayalam big screen with an apt character but more for giving an opening to Biju Sopanam, perhaps the biggest mini-screen hero of recent times.
Biju delivers his maximum as advocate Subrahmanian, a character shaped for comic relief and as a crucial aid of the protagonist during her crisis.
The film has an interesting plot but the sequences hinder its flow at times. It offers funny moments but comic scenes are not as promising as they were meant to be.
The script by R.J. Shaan with additions by Bipin Chandran manages to keep the audience engaged, without much action and melodrama. It tries to connect with the young generation with scenes proclaiming their freedom and rights and even with a re-creation of the Kiss of Love protest which unfortunately fell flat in its execution.
The adventures of Saira Bano may not meet with your expectations if you have kept them very high. It's a one-time watch with a novel theme and some neat performances for sure.
Onmanorama rating: 3/5