Pink Movie Review: Much Ado About Pink?

Pink – A Review

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Directed by: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury    Written by: Ritesh Shah

Starring: Amitabh Bacchan

Sometimes a film comes that taps into some of the core issues of the prevalent society, issues that have already been hotly debated and discussed. When such a film comes from a producer known for making daring, different films (Shoojit Sircar of Piku, Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe), directed by a 2 time national award winner making his first foray into Bollywood (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury of Antaheen and Anuranan) and starring a septuagenarian colossus of Indian Cinema who is still an audience catcher (The BigB, enuf said), it is only expected that hype around this movie release will hit the roof.

But when hype hits the roof, opinion on the film (so aptly named Pink) can sometimes get “colored” by a different shade. And so when glowing reviews kept pouring in about a pioneering brave work, and expectations rising ever higher, yours humbly tried to approach the movie cautiously, to watch it with a neutral lens while keeping expectations and emotions in check.

The good news is that the film doesn’t disappoint overall, but one is left to wonder whether the film really deserves all the accolades for its bravura. But more on that later. The plot is pretty straightforward (minor spoilers in this paragraph) – a group of single working girls get entangled in an attempt at molestation by 3 Delhi boys, where one of the girls injures his molester in self-defence. Constituting the first half of the film (and probably the better half), what follows is very urban girl’s nightmare in a patriarchal society, as they get constantly harassed by the boys thirsting for revenge, nor do they get any support from the Police, work-place or near-ones. Suffocated by social stigma, the role of victim and oppressor gets intermingled, as the Girls are accused of attempted murder. It is at this point, Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), a retired lawyer suffering from bipolar disorder with an ailing wife (Mamata Shankar), who has till then been a silent spectator to the girls’ troubles, decides to represent them as their defence counsel (the 2nd half of the film).

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Armed with a theme that has been the talking point of the media and social networks in the last few years, Aniruddha Roychowdhury paces the film well with a 1st half that looks like is a slowly concocted suspense thriller where we find the victims and protagonists being gradually choked by the after-effects of their traumatic experience. From the opening sequence, the film grips you with a gently piercing background score, building up the tension, while the audience wonders what really could have happened that unfortunate night. Amitabh Bacchan (who eerily looks like an aged stalker) seems to be a brooding spectator as the girls’ next door neighbour, till he finally decides to take matters into his own hands. While Pink on a broad level bears some resemblance to the Hollywood film The Accused (featuring a stunning and explosive performance from Jodie Foster), the scenario and response of the characters are quintessentially of an Indian society. While the Accused was more violent, shocking and graphic, Pink avoids being in your face and never shows the actual events but references them through the statements of the defendants. Also, while Jodie Foster’s reaction was more of rage, the 3 girls in Pink are shown more helpless as they are not only up against their assailants, but the encompassing society which does not sympathise.

However, the film’s level falls off in the 2nd half as becoming too preachy and stereotypical. As a consequence of Amitabh Bacchan’s several court room dialogues, the audience is literally force fed the evils of patriarchy and the meaning of consent. Boys shouldn’t construe girls drinking and partying as an indication of being “easy” and ready; the girls also said “No! Nada! Zip”, hence there is no question of consent. It kind of feels squeamish when a film needs to spell out each and every item as if schooling a society with the emotional intelligence of a kindergardener. Some people may argue that given the kind of disgraceful acts that even our urban society can stoop to, this spelling out of everything seems to have become necessary. What’s worth debating though is if the target audience is even reached by such a film, as the film is unlikely to appeal to such people. Which then necessitates that the film at least plays a more generic role in educating the society, but then again it will be watched more by a relatively mature society who are already well aware of such societal malaises prevalent through the media. In that sense, the film is hardly a social zeitgeist as it has been made out to be by various sections of the media.

pink-amitabhThe acting of the film was par for the course. Big B was mostly brooding in the film, with occasional flashes of brilliance in the court room scenes. For an evergreen actor, one can still be appreciative of his performance, if it weren’t for the very similar style of acting that he had earlier showcased (and probably better in Te3n). Someone who has seen Te3n would feel he is seeing the same person in Pink, although the characters are entirely different. One wonders if Mr.Amitabh Bacchan is playing the same thing regardless of character (even if the same thing is still pretty good). The 3 actresses give decent performances at best, with Kirti Kulhari standing out. Dhritiman Chatterjee looked aged as the Judge with the quavering voice (not too sure if that was deliberate).

But what is new and refreshing is the depiction of such themes in the Bollywood mainstream. In a year where we have seen Bollywood mainstream go bold with releases like Udta Punjab, Pink can be another feather in its otherwise pretty threadbare cap. Like the old classic and one of the best courtroom dramas, Anatomy of a Murder (1959), was outright in its time with its frank discussion on rape and sexual themes, it took Bollywood mainstream another 50 years to give the setting for such films to come (while bold themes have been prevalent in parallel cinema like Bandit Queen, Matribhoomi, they weren’t part of a mainstream release). On the creative side, the strong points of the film was undoubtedly the musical score with its blend of piano melody mingled with phases of intensity as if portending the audience of something sinister lurking in the background. The editing was also taut, at least during the 1st half.

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Overall, Pink is another bold release in a line of Bollywood releases vindicating the fact that the mainstream is maturing over the last few years. While much has been said of the film as a social commentary, I would hardly think the film is an eye opener on a facet of society that has been sufficiently put on the scanner. Rather than being a pioneer, Pink is more of a follower of this trend. One also can’t help but feel the irony that in an unforgiving patriarchal society comprising of roguish boys and women who have conformed to such a setting (like the female police deputy), it is finally up to the ageing patriarch, who finally decides to come out of his brooding shell in an attempt to restore some semblance of parity. The movie poster also shows Big B towering over the 3 defenceless girls with a rather dominating gesture. In a theme about women empowerment and liberalisation, this seems rather out of place (The Accused had a female lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer). Eventually, Pink is still part of Bollywood mainstream, and Big Stars still attract big audience.

So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves in showering our praise, but give credit where it’s due. Pink is not a pioneering film per se; there have been lesser known but more pioneering and relevant films depicting such issues outside the mainstream, like Matrubhoomi or even Bandit Queen. While we admit that gender bias and molestation is a malaise in urban Indian society, the inequality prevalent in rural India is of far more alarming proportions. Depicting rural India may not be as eye catching, so films showcasing these issues are socially relevant and deserve more attention. I’ll also be hoping to write a review on Parched (Radhika Apte in a bold performance), a film on gender inequality in rural India that went under the radar due to the Pink hype, if I get the time.

While quoting the title of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing may seem to be too harsh a statement on Pink, it is nevertheless true, especially given the hype that was build up around the film. Rather let’s just say it’s a relevant film that resonates with the membrane of today’s society.

My rating: 3.0/5 (maybe +0.5 to be generous)

Pathikrit Basu

(a self-proclaimed cinephile)

+919819128637

pathbasu@gmail.com

 

Pink Movie Review: The Film Leaves the ‘Modern Society’ Red-faced

pink-amitabh-bachchan-upcoming-movie-poster-release-date-poster-mtwiki-2016This has been an unusually long dry spell for an average Bollywood lover. Barring an intermittently funny Happy Bhag Jayegi, there has hardly been any film in the last month or so that has managed to register its presence in our minds – forget about leaving an impression. Midst of all the blues, comes director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink – a film with an odd title but an intriguing enough trailer to raise a few hopes. And by the end of its runtime, the film not just exceeds your hopes but also reinstates your faith in the good, old Bollywood and its ability to churn out meaningful, powerful stories.Continue reading “Pink Movie Review: The Film Leaves the ‘Modern Society’ Red-faced”

18 Years on, Dil Se Lives on: A True Classic in Every Sense

What do you say about a film where the very first scene teaches you something new? Despite being good with geography I had no clue of a place called Haflong, but thanks to Dil Se I know that it is a hill station in Assam. What do you say about a film where the hero and the heroine hardly communicate the first time that they meet, so much so that the hero actually remarks at the end of it saying this must be the World’s shortest love story. And what can you actually say when that is followed by a song which is not just a personal favourite, but a song that shook the entire Nation and is popular to this day Internationally as well, the brilliantly choreographed, composed and executed number, “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. Even if the film had nosedived after that I would perhaps have still not really complained, but then there was no need to as it turned out to be a film for which there is everything and more going in its favour.Continue reading “18 Years on, Dil Se Lives on: A True Classic in Every Sense”

Tamasha (2015) Movie Review: The Art of Bad Storytelling

Imtiaz Ali’s film Tamasha is, at best, an attempt at a grand spectacle, and at worst, an eloquent exploration of the title’s other meaning, that is, commotion.The movie starts with the back story of a child fascinated with storytelling, beautifully shot by the talented Ravi Verman of Barfi fame, and coherently strung together by editor Aarti Bajaj. The movie is narrated not so subtly, by a theatre show of a futuristic robot and a joker.In a desperately clichéd attempt to portray the story as contrary to reality, young Ved is seen escaping his cruel father, collecting stolen pennies in a secret box, and using them to pay to listen to an old man’s (Piyush Mishra) fantastical tales. The old man keeps reiterating that all stories are essentially the same with characters that keep changing. The child, much like the protagonist in Pan’sLabyrinth, finds stories in unlikely places, and imagines characters materializing from the dark corners of his house. Unable to discern reality from fantasy, his young mind is enraptured by the possibilities of a fictional world, which contrast starkly to his life under his father watchful eye.Up until this point, Tamasha has merit enough to be a very good children’s film.Continue reading “Tamasha (2015) Movie Review: The Art of Bad Storytelling”

Tamasha Movie Review: Performance of Life

 

Jab We Met, Break Ke Baad, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu and Tamasha – what do these have in common? They have a stuck-up, somewhat depressed beta-male who is liberated from the monotony of life by a freewheeling sorted-in-life chic. They unlock the guy’s true potential. Out of these movies, 2 have Kareena Kapoor, 2 have Deepika Padukone and 2 are made by the same guy, Imtiaz Ali. It says a lot about all of them. Kareena and Deepika are the true female superstars of the multiplex era. Just like Madhuri and Sridevi (Beta, Chalbaaz) from the 90’s, they fulfill the male writer-director’s fantasy of women with reins (“If I’m going to submit myself to someone, it has to be one of these”). Imtiaz Ali’s lead male characters are highly conflicted (nothing profound, just confused) and eventually turn to the women for life-affirming comforts. With Tamasha, he continues with his adolescent pre-occupations of finding the one-true-special-one, but this time he exhibits a very strong narrative control for almost three quarters of the movie, where he shifts through places, timelines and perspectives much more organically than his other more ambitious films like Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar.Continue reading “Tamasha Movie Review: Performance of Life”

Tamasha Movie Review: Imtiaz Ali’s Mera Naam Joker Moment

Tamasha Poster 1If you flip through filmography of accomplished directors, you will find at least one film that goes on to become a symbol of their pedigree. ‘That one film’ may not necessarily be the directors’ most accomplished work or a roaring commercial success, yet it beams with the faith, idea and conviction of its creator.Continue reading “Tamasha Movie Review: Imtiaz Ali’s Mera Naam Joker Moment”

Tamasha Movie Review: A Mainstream Commercial Film with a Lot of Heart and Mind

There comes a time in life when you introspect, reflect about what you have been doing all these years. Is it the real you? Being enslaved in mundane stuff for eons, can a spark bring back that true self in a quest to recognize your identity. Significantly, have you even identified that deep within, you are not living a life that you once aspired for. Sometimes an incident, a moment or maybe even a failure can shake your core self; leading to a descent, only to realize your own self-worth. A worth which is required to accentuate your importance in your own eyes.Continue reading “Tamasha Movie Review: A Mainstream Commercial Film with a Lot of Heart and Mind”

Breaking Bard: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean Trilogy

In early 2000s, when a music director, known mostly for his work in niche Hindi films, began travelling to festivals for his exposure to international cinema, he chanced upon his nephew reading a “children’s version” of Shakespeare’s works. Little did he know that what began as a leisurely reading exercise, would, almost a decade and a half later, culminate into one of the most accomplished trilogies on Shakespearean literature ever.

What is interesting to note here is that what the world saw as a master stroke, with the Kingdom of Scotland being replaced by Mumbai’s underworld and the witches by corrupt policemen, to contemporarize Macbeth, was born largely out of ignorance. Had the creator felt intimidated by Shakespeare’s standing in world literature then perhaps we wouldn’t have witnessed this ‘chutzpah’ in his adaptations.

Today when we see Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Omkara & Haider, unless told otherwise, we might not even think of them as adaptations of Macbeth, Othelo and Hamlet respectively. As his frequent collaborator, Gulzaar, points out “Vishal simply uses the name of Shakespeare for marketing gimmick. They are all but original works” This remark garbed with sarcasm is perhaps the best compliment one can give to his trilogy. 

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

“Shakti ka santulan”

Like most trilogies, it is very easy to notice a similarity in the screen-writing pattern in all the 3 movies. We are already familiar with the names of his characters sounding similar to the ones in the play (Gertrude becomes Ghazala, Iago becomes Ishwar ‘Langda’ Tyagi). The supernatural elements get conveniently replaced with their contemporary avatars (King Hamlet’s “ghost”  becomes a man carrying Ghost IDs – aptly named Roohdaar). The major plot points in the play always make way into the final adaptation (Desdemona’s handkerchief makes way for Dolly Mishra’s Kamarbandh but nevertheless remains pivotal to the final doom)

The "grave-digger" scene from the play & the film
The “grave-digger” scene from the play & the film

However, the similarity does extend to minor character peculiarities as well. The central character always gets a closely cropped haircut (while Irrfan & Saif got a Caesar cut, we saw Shahid’s head getting a complete shave-off). There is slight touch of an english song or a phrase to add the quirk to a narrative rolling out mostly in local dialect (much before the wordplay between Chutzpah & AFSPA we saw Kareena’s hindi medium educated Dolly learning to sing ‘I just called to say’ for Omkara always addressed as ‘My dear O’ in her love-letters).

And if you thought we had exhausted all the points, take note of how every romantic ballad, between the lead pair, paves way for the first in the series of events that would finally culminate into the tragic climax. (Nimmi lays the germ of killing Abbaji in Maqbool’s mind after ‘Rone Do’ | Indu steals the cummerbund towards the end of ‘O Saathi Re’ | Haider discloses his plan of avenging his father’s death to Arshia after ‘Khul Kabhi To’)

There might be many more similarities. We just need to keep looking!

 

“Ya to tu bahut badi lool hai. Ya bahut badi chudail.”

The two-faced Shakespearean lady
The two-faced Shakespearean lady

When Haider looks at his mother’s reflection on a broken mirror, split into two, he rightly points out her two-faced nature. The classic Shakespearean lady, whose desires and ambitions always leads to the crime. And it is her guilt of the same that consumes everyone at the end.

Does she really love her husband’s godson or is she simply looking for a means of escape from her sexless and hapless life? Why does she steal the cummerbund at the slightest prodding of her husband, without questioning him about it?  How can she, still a half-widow, sit and smile beside her new lover, basking in the glory of his electoral win; or are those dark glasses concealing her guilt-ridden eyes?

She is also the innocent victim, torn between her loved ones. She might scream out to push away her enemy. But mostly she weeps and surrenders – taking away her own life or letting her loved one take it away from her.

 

“Bewakoof aur ch***ye mein dhaage bhar ka fark hota hai”

Vishal really indulges himself in fleshing out the minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. The witches, the spies, the courtiers are not just mere sidekicks in larger scheme of things. They are instrumental in influencing the protagonists, taking the story forward and also providing the much needed comic relief in what everyone knows is going to end up in a tragedy.

Naseer & Om’s Pandit & Purohit in Maqbool, Deepak Dobriyal’s Rajju in Omkara and, the latest addition, Salman & Salman, played by Sumit Kaul & Rajat Bhagat, in Haider have some of the best written scenes in the film for them.

If it has been a while since you watched Omkara, we can recap one such scene for you.

And to all those raving on the performance of the two Salmans in Haider here is a small scene from the film for you.

 

“Hummara ishq to paak tha naa miyaan”

What is it in the forbidden love, that attracts us so strongly towards it? The very boundaries of relationship that one is expected to safeguard, end up getting violated first. It inebriates us with such a toxic strength that the lines of right and wrong get blurred.

The different shades of forbidden love
The different shades of forbidden love

Why else would Maqbool end up putting bullets into his Godfather when he has risked his entire life saving him from those very bullets? What came over Dolly to defy her father and elope from her own marriage for a hard-core criminal, lower to her in both caste and status? Was Ghazala actually in love with her brother-in-law or was just running away from her son lest she starts reciprocating his Oedipus complex?

The forbidden love doesn’t expect the world to understand it. It is continuously judged and condemned, but it continues to be giving till its last breath. Sometimes it is in form of a last peck to her son to salvage his years of desire before blowing oneself up to quench his thirst for vengeance. Other times it is just abject surrender to one’s beloved only to be smothered by him on your wedding night. As mentioned, it continues to be giving till its last breath.

 

“Hum hain ki hum nahin”

Last, but not the least, Vishal’s films are also about existential crisis. A half-brahmin continuously jostles with those who have been ridiculing his caste to gain power over them. His second-in-command forgets years of friendship when what rightfully belongs to him is usurped away by a greenhorn only because of differences in their social standing. His insecurities are not very different from a Mumbai gangster who continuously feels threatened by a lad much younger to him simply because he is soon going to qualify as his Godfather’s son-in-law. And in a world much more complex than theirs, millions of Kashmiris take sides in a war for reasons that are anything but ideological. Some are avenging the death of their closed ones. Others are following their lines of duty. Most of them are confused and are willing to sideline with anyone who can promise them safety and purpose in lives.

While love, greed, lust and redemption remain integral to the plot, it is the continuous struggle towards protecting one’s own existence that forms the core of all of Vishal’s stories. It propels them to do the unthinkable only to realize the truth when it’s too late. The truth that recurs in all the 3 movies. Whether it is by showing Maqbool giving up arms at the sight of his son being adopted by his enemy or by having Haider forgive his uncle to honor his mother’s last wishes. The truth- that has been articulated with great simplicity in Haider “Jab tak hum Inteqam se aazaad nahi ho jaate… koi Aazaadi humein aazaad nahi kar sakti”.

Here is leaving you all with the Faiz Ahmed Faiz song that is played through the movie. Set to music by Mehdi Hasan, it is the first instance of Vishal using someone else’s composition for his films. “Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka karobaar chale……”

Revolver Rani Movie Review : Experimental, Brave but Flawed

Revolver Rani is a hard film to judge and critique. It is a black comedy, and a sly one at that. It is an audacious and ambitious attempt. It is also marginally regressive at times. It is a slushy ode to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series, not that those were classics either. It is the feminine version of a diatribe of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, in layman terms. It is a lot of things. But then, it is nothing like what its trailer promised it to be. Revolver Rani delves much deeper, darker and quirkier than a plain badass female dacoit beating up goons story. Yet in those finer reserves, it loses itself somewhere and leaves you confused. It must be lauded, but alas, it cannot be archived even if all of ye Kangana fans may have wanted to, especially after the release of Queen.

Continue reading “Revolver Rani Movie Review : Experimental, Brave but Flawed”