Pink : Movie Review
4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)
Director : Aniruddh Roy Chowdhury
Writer : Ritesh Shah
Hindi (English subtitles available), 2016
In the India of yore , when mighty righteous kings ruled, the matter of dispensing justice was relatively simple. Witness a real-life-inspired scene in 'Jodha Akbar' where the emperor orders a wicked general to be thrown down from the fort , not once but twice, to ensure that he's dead. Modern times, however, as we know, are hopelessly complicated and sometimes it is the victim not the criminal who gets hanged, with entire systems corrupted and witnesses turning hostile. Mind-numbing scams in the nation may be mercifully on the decline but the violence against its women, still burns. 'Pink' takes a slice out of this malignant state of affairs, and turns a case of outraged modesty into a courtoom battle. That it somehow escapes preaching is a minor miracle, and by the time the last closing statement has been offered, those summative words rise to become a great wave of humbling perspective however simple it might seem.
Considering last year's notorious case in California where a high-placed varsity student was awarded a grand sentence of six long months for sexually assaulting an unconscious girl, not just India but even the rest of the world would do well to have a look at this superbly crafted movie which gently blasts to pieces, our hypocrisies and prejudices against our women.
Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury , backed by Ritesh Shah's solidly impressive script , shows fine mettle in smoothly weaving a disturbing story undisturbed by any songs. The central event which ignites it all, is almost never shown, and we only know of it second-hand for the most part. Minal Arora (Taapsee Pannu) is a young lady who is supposed to have resisted the aggressive physical advances of Rajveer (Angad Bedi) whose uncle is a powerful politico. Rajveer's skull gets smashed in the scuffle, Minal refuses to apologize and soon gets sucked into a hell that finally lands them all in court.
The further ravaged Minal seems headed for a long jail stint, at which point a famous lawyer Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bacchan) resurrects from the grave of retirement to attend to a woman whose living burial has been plotted.
I can sense the 'Pink'er ones amongst us asking why a male should be selected as the saviour, when a female defence lawyer could well have completed and fully consummated the theme. I have not much to argue with them, save to plead that the male specimen here represents a lone ray of his otherwise barbaric breed's redemption.
Leading roles aside, don't forget the brilliantly agonizing turn by Kirti Kulhari. Her hysterical parrying of the bullish prosecution and the choking final point she utters, showcases her outstanding potential even if she never gets any award for it. It doesn't take a critic to note that Taapsee Pannu, as the central martyred female, is visually alluring , but she has what many of her pretty leggy colleagues lack - an ability to fluidly portray a range of utterly convincing and moving emotions.
Bacchan in 'Pink' may not have effected a seismic shift in the world's acting scale (to achieve that, he should have won our empathy even by portraying the prosecution, not the defence!) but he has done something equally spectacular by achieving more than forty years of flawless , gravitas-packed acting that still makes him the industry's creme de la creme. His is not the town's most dazzling joint, but it is that grand time-tested establishment you go to , while taking the high standards for granted each and every time.
He nails the always soft-spoken part of an expert ageing lawyer, rigorously avoiding any smugness or complacency, while sprinkling little sparkles of humour, and injecting his words and demeanour with the exact dramatic dose. Such merit, however, eludes the language of the overall screenplay which lacks the range and depth of elegant Hindi.
That should not detract from the script's dedicate expose of how we often demean women. There's an artful broadside at the notions against girls from India's "North-East". The defence periodically adds key points to the 'Girls Safety Manual' - a delightfully sardonic spin on how so many women are branded either Madonnas or whores.
Producer Shoojit Sircar could have done well to show more restraint in the credit titles, regardless of what transpired behind-the-scenes. He infringes on directorial jurisdiction by proclaiming the movie as " Shoojit Sircar's Pink" and then rubs it in bizarrely by tacking his name on as 'Creative Producer' just after the last scene.
That aside, Pink belongs to that rare class of movies that are neatly persuasive in reminding us that while we may honourably remain humans or even animals, we ought to guard against becoming that most dangerous species which is the human animal.
First published in 'Indian Weekender' in September 2016
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