Arulpragasm comes off as irreverent and insouciant, brattish even, admitting she “doesn’t know this world of behind the scenes activism” and, in one brilliant scene, skipping off to make a documentary about Sri Lanka and forgetting her camera. Still, it’s endearing to see her genuine surprise when she receives an encore at Coachella festival. . . . The only problem is the film’s disinterest in Arulpragasm’s actual artistic process – a problem that dogs many documentaries about female artists.
The robustly living Sri Lankan/London rap magpie M.I.A. hasn’t released anything since 2016, and what distinguishes Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. from the crowd is its extensive access to the controversial artist, and the strong impression that she isn’t terribly likeable, nor terribly keen to be liked. Like her, this doc falls outside the norm.
I do not have strong feelings about M.I.A. either way, but I had a good time watching the opening stretch, with its period-redolent camcorder captures of council estates and bonus footage of Elastica’s Justine Frischmann hanging out with and/or squabbling with M.I.A. . . . I would have loved to learn more about how, precisely, she managed her ascent or, indeed, gotten a more concrete sense of the particulars of making her music, but this isn’t a studio rat deep-dive.