By Radhika Jhaveri:
I have a rule which I have followed throughout my childhood. Of never watching any mainstream Hindi film. I enjoy watching Hindi movies but I am extremely choosy about what I pick. Usually, I wait for film critics I trust to review the film before buying tickets. This rule has helped me avoid the worst of mainstream Bollywood cinema. It was after reading numerous reviews that I bought the tickets for the most talked about movie currently. Pink.
Despite the good reviews, I walked into the theatre a little hesitant. After all, the whole feminist movement has been hijacked by advertisers, celebrities and the movie industry. Everyone seems to have become an expert in feminism overnight, although not a lot of people seem to know what feminism is about. I kept thinking that Pink would be one of those failed attempts at grasping what the feminists are talking about. I was afraid that Pink would inadvertently turn one of the longest struggles in human history into a fad.
The movie begins with the aftermath of an incident. A perpetrator is severely injured and the victims are shaken but otherwise unharmed. Both sides wait for the initial shock to wear off and for a little equilibrium to return to their lives. But the women seem to sense that it is not over and that the worst is yet to come. After an attempt to level things out goes awry, the threats begin. When the girls refuse to back down and one of them files a police complaint, things get ugly. One of the girls is abducted and molested. Another one gets thrown out of her job as her co-workers find her videos on a porn website. Evidently, put there by perpetrators for revenge. Just as the girls begin to wrap their heads around everything that has happened to them, one of the girls gets arrested and put in jail with a case of attempted murder slapped against her. Her friends run around, trying but failing miserably in their attempt to navigate the Indian justice System. All the while, a silent, seemingly ill, retired lawyer, (he seems to be suffering from some sort of mental instability – the movie does not delve into the details of the illness) played by Amitabh Bachchan watches the events unfold. He alone seems to know the truth that the girls are innocent.
The latter half of the movie revolves around the trial with Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of a brilliant lawyer who has decided for the duration of the trial to not let the illness he is suffering from affect him. However, apart from the scene, where at the beginning of the trial, he seems to be not able to look away from a cockroach, he shows absolutely no signs of a mental illness. In the trial we see an exceptionally shrewd Amitabh Bachchan who knows exactly what to do to heckle the plaintiffs and seems to be completely in control of everything that is taking place in the courtroom, despite being sick and his wife on her deathbed.
Apart from such glaring inconsistencies and perpetual inability of the Hindi cinema to pay attention to details, there is one thing which really annoyed me about Pink. The fact that the role of the lawyer was given to a man. I don’t know what made the makers choose a man. All throughout the movie, the focus is on Amitabh Bachchan. He has the maximum dialogues and the maximum screen presence. A film about women empowerment has a man as the main character who explains to the audiences about the struggles that women have to face. How did the makers of this movie not realise the glaring irony? The women in the movie are mostly silent. Except when they are put on the witness stand and commanded to speak. Not to mention the fact that the incident of abduction and molestation of one of the girls is completely forgotten during the trial. Amitabh Bachchan is the hero. He is the one who steps up and rescues the damsels in distress. Nowhere in the entire film do the women articulate a single thought, show the slightest initiative or the tiniest amount of wit. They huddle together, cry and wait for a man to rescue them.
However, I would not discourage moviegoers from watching the movie. Irrespective of the flaws in the film, the performances of the newcomers are really good. Wit and sarcasm are at play during the trial that should not be missed. Hopefully, Shoojit Sircar and team will surprise us next time, if they care to make another film at understanding what the women’s rights movement is truly about.