Matangi/Maya/ M.I.A. leaves view­ers with more ques­tions than it an­swers

India Today - - LEISURE - —Amit Gur­bax­ani

to­gether gen­res and sounds from around the globe, and her fear­less­ness as a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor who would rather speak her mind than sell a few more records.

Screened at the re­cently con­cluded Mum­bai Film Fes­ti­val, Matangi/ Maya /M.I.A. is more about the per­son than her mu­sic. It opens with her re­spond­ing to the ac­cu­sa­tion that she is a ‘prob­lem­atic pop star’, to which she says she would have be­come “a drug ad­dict” if she didn’t ex­press her­self. The com­pli­ca­tion with M.I.A., Loveridge sug­gests, is that she can’t help but ex­press her­self; she has no fil­ter or in­ter­nal ‘stop’ but­ton.

We’re shown how her out­spo­ken­ness on ev­ery­thing from the atroc­i­ties in­flicted on Tamils dur­ing the civil war in Sri Lanka—her fa­ther was of one of the founders of the Ee­lam Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Stu­dents—to the refugee cri­sis in West Asia.

The one thing that isn’t dis­cussed is her romantic re­la­tion­ships with pro­ducer Di­plo and bil­lion­aire Ben­jamin Bronf­man, her for­mer fi­ancé and fa­ther of her nine-year-old son. Loveridge doesn’t at­tempt to paint his sub­ject as per­fect, how­ever. His film ben­e­fits greatly from the in­clu­sion of M.I.A.’s own ex­ten­sive stash of home movies and video di­aries that she been main­tain­ing since she joined col­lege with the as­pi­ra­tions of be­com­ing a doc­u­men­tary film­maker. A child of the dig­i­tal age, M.I.A. has al­ways been adept at us­ing so­cial net­works and tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate and spread her mu­sic and mes­sage. She broke through with the help of Mys­pace, and has al­ways been ex­tremely ac­tive on Twit­ter.

We’re shown ca­reer mile­stones like her en­core-elict­ing de­but per­for­mance in Coachella in 2005, her sec­ond record Kala be­ing named Rolling Stone’s al­bum of the year in 2007, and her nom­i­na­tions for a Grammy and an Os­car in 2009. We also see the hate she receives from Sri Lankans, who brand her a ter­ror­ist, and right-wing Amer­i­cans, who are ap­palled by her flip­ping the fin­ger at the cam­era dur­ing her guest spot at Madonna’s Su­per Bowl per­for­mance in 2012. Loveridge al­ludes to the fact that M.I.A. is of­ten dis­missed as un­rea­son­able be­cause she’s not only a woman but also brown. But there’s no deny­ing her tal­ent and abil­ity to bring to­gether art, fash­ion and mu­sic in ways rarely seen be­fore. She’s usu­ally called a rebel, but Loveridge makes us won­der if de­spite her best ef­forts to be more than her im­age, M.I.A. in­her­ently feels a need to live up to the per­sona she has built for her­self. Take, for ex­am­ple, her an­swer to why she showed her mid­dle fin­ger to the au­di­ence at the US’s most watched an­nual tele­vi­sion broad­cast. Surely she knew there would be con­se­quences. She laughs off the in­ci­dent and im­plies it hap­pened in the heat of the mo­ment, say­ing that, af­ter all, she just re­leased a song called ‘Bad Girls’. A few days later, she claims it was a re­ac­tion to the misog­y­nis­tic and racist na­ture of the stage act, for which she was dressed as a cheer­leader and made to twirl around. Per­haps the pres­sures of be­ing a pop star with an opin­ion are greater than those of be­ing a pop star with­out a brain of their own.

Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. leaves view­ers with more ques­tions than it an­swers, but as a char­ac­ter por­trait, it’s rich in de­tail and ob­ser­va­tion. And even though there isn’t much mu­sic, it will make you want to put on some M.I.A.

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