Normally when you are going through tough times you may get into a shell, not wanting to reach out even to people who really matter to you and care for you. But when it’s a moment of great joy and happiness you don’t usually do that right? Generally by and large we like having people around us during our special moments, people who really matter to us. It’s also a time when people get to unwind and go back in time, as they tend to relive their past days of glory. That’s why weddings make no sense unless you are surrounded by really genuine friends of yours, people who have stood by you during days of gloom and bloom alike. We only tend to think of naughty bachelors/bachelorette parties when it comes to weddings when friends are coming over, but isn’t there something which goes beyond that? Why am I mentioning all this? Well when I’m about to share my take on Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses there’s no way I can start any other way :).
The film starts off in quite an explosive fashion, as we quickly get introduced to all the 7 protagonists in the film. Thankfully there is no voice over, there is no detailing as such, and we see the women in their environments, going about their regular routine, giving us an insight into themselves and their lives. Frieda Da Silva (Sarah-Jane Dias) a well-known fashion photographer is based in Goa and she invites all her friends over to spend a few days with her and attend her wedding. Her friends are all interesting personalities, ‘Mad’ Madhurita (Anushka Manchanda), a popular singer and ‘Pammy’ Pamela Jaswal (Pavleen Gujral), a housewife are friends of Frieda from her college days. ‘Jo’ Joanna (Amrit Maghera), a half-British,half-Indian aspiring Bollywood actress is Frieda’s cousin sister, ‘Su’ Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul), a corporate honcho is Frieda’s mentor of sorts and Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande) is Frieda’s housemaid and childhood friend. Nargis Nasreen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) a social activist seems to be the odd woman out in the group, all of them are quite surprised to know of Frieda’s wedding being fixed. And none of them seem to be aware of whom she is getting married to.
The women go on to spend some quality time together, there are nostalgic moments woven in, lot of introspection that happens, and they get to know each other in the group very well. Thankfully they don’t sit and end up just cribbing about their husbands/boyfriends and instead seem to have a lot more in their lives to look forward to. Be it ogling at their sexy neighbor or supporting each other when needed, slowly but surely they form a close knit unit over the days that they spend together. There’s a moment when Madhurita’s boyfriend (Arjun Mathur) suddenly lands up at Frieda’s place, surprising everyone and spooking Madhurita. Just when I groaned thinking ok now here’s time for some heavy duty emotional drama, nothing like that happens and the guy goes back as quickly as he had come in, in the process we get to understand Madhurita a little more. All of them appear to have strong and interesting personalities, yet they have their weaknesses as well.
Like it’s interesting to see how Suranjana who is a tough nut at work, isn’t really aware of how lonely her daughter actually is despite her presence. All of them assume Madhurita is a successful singer, but she has her own battles to face, her career seems to have hit a roadblock leading her into bouts of depression. Pamela is unhappy being the typical wife and daughter in law, leading a stifled life at home. Joanna faces a lot of issues at work, most people considering her as an outsider in Bollywood. Lakshmi has been living with a mission; she has a deep burning need to avenge the death of her brother. We get to see all these in quite a subtle, natural flow and thankfully without any emotional outbreak. Even when Suranjana and Nargis meet each other and express dismay, thanks to their rivalry at work (Nargis leads an agitation against a proposed plant to be set up by Suranjana’s company), the situation is handled tactfully and Pan Nalin avoids going into a heavy confrontation.
The women share great camaraderie and that works quite well in favour of the film, it looks like Pan Nalin ensured that they bonded well much before the film shoot started perhaps, making it look natural on the screen. In terms of writing (Pan Nalin, Subhadra Mahajan, Arsala Qureishi, Dilip Shankar) for some reason there has been an attempt to pack in way too many serious issues into a film of around 2 hours duration.Gender inequality, rape, gay rights, women’s liberation and many more such,as a result the film doesn’t really get to dwell much upon any of these points. It almost looks like an attempt to get everything ticked off in a big list. Added to it is the problem with respect to the way by which the film ends, in what looks like an attempt to suddenly wrap up the proceedings and shock the audience in the bargain as well what is shown as a means to culminate the story comes across as way too convenient and a little hard to digest as well.
For someone who has made a mark making feature films aimed at the festival circuit and the International audience, along with documentaries on interesting topics, Angry Indian Goddesses marks Pan Nalin’s entry into regular Hindi films. I was not quite sure as to how he would go about making the transition, not because he lacks the talent (I loved his work in Samsara, Valley of Flowers, Faith Connections etc.), but because I felt it wouldn’t be easy for someone with more than 2 decades in the industry to make such a drastic shift in the kind of movie making involved, compared to say someone who is relatively not that senior a filmmaker. But that concern was quite removed in the first few minutes of the film itself I must admit. Considering Angry Indian Goddesses is made by someone who is making a full on mainstream film for the first time, quite unlike anything that he has done in the past, it’s a fairly commendable effort indeed.
Another aspect that I quite liked about the film is the kind of locations used, along with the look and feel of the film itself overall. Considering that the film is based in Goa one would usually expect the film to feature the tried and tested locations, but thankfully be it Frieda’s house, her neighborhood or even the beaches, there is an element of freshness overall to the visuals. Credit to Swapnil Suhas Sonawane’s cinematography as well as production design by Aradhana Seth and art direction by Tiya Tejpal for ensuring that the look and feel of the film overall comes out pretty well. The film also benefits from wonderful music, and by that I refer both to the BGM by Cyril Morin as well as the songs composed by Ram Sampath, Anushka Manchanda and a few others. The film does not have too many supporting characters, most of the focus is on the 7 women, and that helps as well. Adil Hussain as the cop who has some significance towards the end seems to be like a fish out of water over here, adding to the already not so great ending anyway.
The leading women are all well cast and of them it is only Tannishtha Chatterjee who doesn’t get much scope in the film. Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande and Pavleen Gujral bring in some freshness, while Sarah-Jane Dias proves she is not just a good looker but also a competent performer. Anushka Manchanda makes a good transition to acting and leaves an impact while Sandhya Mridul is effective as always. Angry Indian Goddesses is an interesting film with a truly rocking start, but the way it ends is what prevents it from being a truly memorable film. Nevertheless it is indeed worth a watch for the spirited work put in by the lovely women in the film.
Note: It is unfortunate that the film got a raw deal from the censor board, having seen the uncut version I quite cannot fathom the need for going harsh with this film.