Signature Move review: Women and wrestling form the heart of this witty romance

Release Date: 17 Oct 2017 / 01hr 22min

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

Director Jennifer Reeder's film has the magic of Fawzia Mirza's acting going for it, but is too loosely scripted to make an impact.

Something that would never ordinarily make their way into a mainstream comedy — Pakistani lesbian women wrestling — is at the heart of this witty romance written by Fawzia Mirza and Lisa Donata, and directed by Jennifer Reeder.

At the 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Signature Move saw a heavy crowd that was surprised and often delighted by the wit and dry comedy that drive Reeder's very conventional Hindi film narrative.

The film follows the complex life of Zaynab (Mirza) an immigration lawyer struggling to come to terms with her own sexual identity. Her life revolves around work and her mother (Shabana Azmi), a conservative Pakistani matron, who spends her days hunting for 'potentials' for her daughter from the living room of her house.

While her mother uses her binoculars to hunt for men, Zaynab ends up in a random relationship with Alma (Sari Sanchez), a brave, carefree Mexican girl she meets at a bar. Trying to keep up with the mercurial nature of Alma, while coming to terms with her own sexuality and escaping her mother's judgement, Zaynab has to fight the battle on her own. It all takes a different colour with her strange passion for being a luchador (wrestler). That's where her signature move comes in.

The film is sharp, funny, and very relatable to say the least. Reeder creates a film that revolves around its main characters, and deviates very little.

However, the little deviations there are seem random, and at times forced. Although the wrestling becomes a search for her identity, it offers little in terms of character development. Some of the interactions and incidents in the film seem too superficial to make an impact, and slip off the surface. A tighter hand at editing would have helped trim some unnecessary sequences.

However, Fawzia Mirza delivers a commendable performance as the awkward, passionate woman trying to be herself. Her wit, wry humour and natural skill elevate her performance.

Shabana Azmi delivers a very stereotypical performance as the conservative, gender-biased mum. And therein lies the problem. Though she undergoes a transformation in the end, the film shows little as to why and how she does manage that. The subtext of a television soap opera that works as her inner argument seems insufficient for such a drastic change.

Despite that, in a subcontinent where men and women are still subjected to centuries old sexual prejudice and bias, the tackling of such a topic with wit, humour and a very normalised conversation makes Signature Move quite entertaining. In the end, like a good Hindi romantic film, it ends with the hero/heroine kissing his girl, getting together with her mother, and finding her own self.