Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and produced by Shoojit Sircar, is no one doubt a relevant film and you cannot fault its intent. It examines issues of a woman’s right to her body, sexual violence, sexual politics, gender biases, misuse of power and patriarchy and what’s more, makes out its arguments maturely, hitting hard when it has to. In that sense, it is a film that needs to be watched by both genders, preferably together. But even wonderful ideas and solid base content need effective cinematic language – starting right from the screenplay – to convert them into a great film. It is here that the film falls short.
Straight off, let me begin by saying that this tale of three working girls in Delhi, Minal, Falak and Andrea (Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Tariang), who go through a harrowing nightmare after Minal files a molestation case against the nephew of a Minister, Rajvir (Angad Bedi), has enough going for it. There are several sequences that effectively bring out just how hard the battle is for women in this country, even in a so called modern society and just how deep the rot has set in.
The opening credits makes the intent of the film clear right from the very beginning as they bill the women first and Amitabh Bachchan fourth. Pink begins well, engrossing us immediately, as it inter-cuts between the tense group of girls and a group of young men, one of whom is bleeding around the eye, in different vehicles. As events unfold in the manner of a thriller, we are further sucked into the world of the three protagonists and what they go through. More importantly, we empathize with them and feel for them as we see how the powers that be turn the case on its head and the girls are instead charged for soliciting and Minal, in particular, for attempt to murder. The big strength of the film is that though we are never shown what actually happened between the two groups in the main body of the film, we are riveted nevertheless as we wonder how it will all unfold. It is also rather satisfying that the film gives us enough introspective moments of the three girls as they go through their ordeal, which helps us greatly in our connect with them.
It is the smaller touches that always work best in a film. Here too, in a wonderful scene when Taapsee is recognized on her morning walk/run as the girl against whom the prostitution case is on, she attempts to hide her face by putting her hood over her head. Bachchan walking with her, puts it down indicating to her that she has nothing to feel sorry for. Another telling moment, which shows us just how difficult it is still going to be for mindsets to change, is when the prosecuting lawyer (Piyush Mishra), questions Minal (and her character) on why she lives on her own when she has a house in Delhi. Almost immediately as if on cue, her father orders her to pack up and return home.
Sadly though, the film falters as it switches to becoming a courtroom drama in its second half. This is where it not only flags as you feel its 136 minutes running length, but it also gets unnecessarily preachy as Bachchan takes centre stage and tells you most of what should have naturally come out of the story. What’s more, the film ends up as an uneasy mix of the real and believable mixed with the unsubtle and filmi. And this duality is what finally plagues it. While the characterization of the three working girls in Delhi living together is more than credible and well-fleshed out, you have the absolute cardboard-like, cartoonish prosecution lawyer at the other end that all but kills the film; if the film exposes the stereotypical and hypocritical response of most of us as to how women should dress and behave and what they should eat and drink, the script also resorts to some typical cliches in its storytelling – Bachchan’s track with his sick wife (Mamata Shankar), for instance. It is one of the weaker strands of the film and adds nothing to the film. And then the bad boy, of course, is the nephew of a politician… Ah well. The screenplay too has its share of loopholes and various tracks are left hanging like the one with the kindly landlord, who is conveniently forgotten beyond a point. Or Taapsee’s abduction being sidelined in the case when witnessed by Bachchan himself. This makes the narrative flow jerky with little thought given to transitions between scenes. Also, considering the way Bachchan is initially presented like a crazed, creepy stalker in a horror film, it seems highly improbable as to why the girls would even trust him so implicitly to take on their case. It’s a necessary plot point yes, but not one that comes through convincingly enough.
The performances too are a mixed bag. Bachchan is much too self consciously mannered and obviously ‘acting’ as the bipolar retired lawyer and while Taapsee is fine enough, she is actually the weakest of the three girls. She still has her moments, especially when she breaks down in court telling the judge just how dirty and revolted one feels when one is felt up against their will. However, her dialogue delivery still leaves a lot to be desired and this affects a good deal of her performance. Kirti Kulhari, on the other hand, is consistently good while Andrea Tariang too is effective in her own right. Angad Bedi rises above a thankless role and shows a strong screen presence while Piyush Mishra is, to put it simply, downright awful. Vijay Verma makes a strong impact in a supporting role as does Dhritiman Chatterjee, who adds just the right degree of dignity to his character of the understanding judge.
Technically just about adequate, Pink is worth a watch more for what it attempts to say. And if it leads to more similar endeavors taking place in our mainstream cinema, then one can’t really complain.
Hindi, Drama, Thriller, Color