Tuesday, October 4, 2016

‘Pink’ film review: An engaging but unrealistic catharsis

‘Pink’ tries to be a film with a message, in the same vein as the exceptional but problematic ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ — it might be Bollywood with a difference but it is still Bollywood

- Rutwij Nakhwa

‘Pink’ is one of the few films in recent Hindi Cinema, that employs cinematic technique so exceptionally well to set mood and flesh out the bleak, dark tone that prevails throughout the two hour long thriller drama. Right from the start, you are plunged into claustrophobic close-ups interspersed with dark Delhi landscapes, amplified by erratic jump cuts and shaky camera movements that are reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s intense Iraq War drama, ‘The Hurt Locker’ (2008).   

A deep sense of dread and unease grips you, even before you get any grasp on the narrative — a harrowing feeling that reminded me of AnuragKashyap’s technically excellent, dark psychological thriller, ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ (2016). As the narrative unfolds, you increasingly experience the anguish and helplessness of the characters, rather than just empathising with them. The film puts you in the same psychological frame of mind as the characters — to an extent you feel what being a woman in this country feels like — and that, is the brilliance of the film.

Three young women sharing an apartment in Delhi — Meenal, Falak and Andrea befriend three males (one of them is a friend of Meenal’s) at a rock concert and accompany them to a hotel room in Delhi for drinks, in a resort where the boys had invited them for dinner. Things get out of hand as one of the males, Rajveer, tries molesting Meenal and in retaliation she smashes a bottle on his forehead, dangerously close to his eye. All this is however alleged, as the viewer only gets characters’ accounts of the incident.


Soon, Amitabh Bachchan enters with overgrown silver eyebrows and creeps you out like never before. He is the girls’ neighbour, who perversely stares at Meenal, while she is jogging and stops and crouches to tie her shoelace, later he stares into their apartment, forcing Falak, to draw the curtains. This inexplicable, strange staring continues for good measure. He also manages to save Falak, as she almost walks into a speeding car, only to stare again, into her eyes and say in the most eerie manner and voice, “You must be careful.”

His ailing wife who is on her deathbed in a hospital appears in random scenes, and his mental illness, (supposed to be bi-polar, but never actually named in the film) seem to be crude plot elements meant to add “character” to his character and maybe try and (unsuccessfully) justify the creepiness. He even wears a weirdly scary breathing mask; again, I have no idea why. The only end, if any, for this creepiness is the twist, wherein Amitabh proves to be the knight in shining armour, as he shows up in his legal attire at the girls’ doorstep, looking dapper as hell, come to their rescue. I felt a strange urge to hoot and clap at this point, but I held back. Bachchan is Deepak Sehgal, a celebrated lawyer, who has famously and publicly retired from practice owing to his mental illness (Andrea learns this through Google), how he can then return at will and practice law, is again a mystery that the film leaves unanswered. 

Turns out, the blow to Rajveer’s male ego is far more severe than his physical injuries. Incited by his cousin, they chart out a plan for revenge; Rajveer, by the way, like most Bollywood villains is a well-connected politician’s son. Hence Meenal’s police complaint goes unheard, while she is arrested on charges of assault, manslaughter, soliciting and what not. Because, if you’re a politician, the law is basically your bitch. 

The film then finally moves into the courtroom drama that its marketing promised us. 
The trial itself, much like the rest of the film, runs more on emotion than logic. Piyush Mishra, as the opposition laywer, is brilliant as always but his character is written one-dimensionally — completely unlikeable and clearly set to fail. I wonder how the politician’s big money couldn’t buy a better lawyer.  Sehgal’s illness only appears when it’s least inconvenient to the court proceedings, otherwise he is flawless, delivering one inspiring monologue after the other. Amitabh with his long and illustrious career, delivers a performance that will distinctly stand out, my recent favourites being ‘Piku’ (2015) and ‘The Last Lear’ (2007).

‘Pink’ tries to be a film with a message, in the same vein as the exceptional but problematic ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ (2015) — it might be Bollywood with a difference but it is still Bollywood. We still have a “man” in Deepak Sehgal, who runs the film and the entire discourse against patriarchy, while all the women around him, stare with starry-eyed gratitude. A film that doesn’t strive to be realistic, could have easily had a strong female character supporting, if not running Bachchan’s one-man-show. In its contrived “happily ever after” ending it robs the audience of any discourse that they might have engaged in, in response to the film, again a trademark of Bollywood. 

This film is clearly an improvement over what anyone could have expected from Bollywood, but now it’s time to set the bar much higher.

'Pink' is now playing at a cinema near you.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the publication or that of Uma da Cunha.

Rutwij Nakhwa, studying for his Bachelor's in Mass  Media  at St Xavier's College, Mumbai,
 is working as an intern with  Uma da Cunha and her quarterly  magazine  'Film India Worldwide

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