How many films have you seen where you forget you are watching a film, where the line dividing the audience from the characters get so blurred as to make the distinction almost redundant?
"Pink" sucks us so deep into its characters' lives that we come
away breathless and anxious. For almost ten minutes after the
end-titles, I couldn't move from my seat. I had just seen what
three Delhi girls had gone through because they decided to have a
fun night out after a rock concert with some boys.
In Meenal (Taapsee Pannu), Falak (Kirti Kilhari) and Andrea
(Andrea Tariang), I saw all our daughters, grappling with the
befuddled notions of 'What Men Can Do, What Women Can't Do' and
what happens when women do what men say, women can't do.
"Pink" is a very important film, and not only because it
addresses gender issues with such caustic elan, biting away at
patriarchal prejudices with such skill and efficiency that we don't
even realize how much of the indictment the narrative presents
against patriarchal bullying.
It all comes out in a tumble in a rousing courtroom finale where
the aging but still sharp lawyer Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan)
with a dying wife (Mamata Shankar) in the hospital, provokes the
spoilt rich politician's scion (Angad Bedi, sufficiently credible)
to say why it is okay to force yourself on a certain type of
"loose" women even if they say no to your advances.
But then here's where the narrative plays out a greatest lesson
without glee or glory: when a woman says no to sex, it is a
Period. So stop right there. Just because that girl you've been
staring at for much more than 14 seconds is wearing a short skirt
and laughing loudly and drinking and cracking a dirty joke at a
party where "nice" girls are not allowed, it doesn't mean she can
be forced to have sex with you.
"Pink" takes us beyond, far beyond, black and white, and away
from the comfort zone, into an area of exposition on gender
discrimination where it is hard to deify the victims and demonize
the aggressors. This is where this film scores much higher than
other remarkable treatise on Sex & The Single Girl.
The three protagonists in "Pink" are no lip-biting,
sympathy-seeking, urban cowgirls. They have their weaknesses, their
blind spots. They like their fun. But must they pay for it?
They stand up to that one truth which the Big B's legal
rhetorics help us ingest: a girl can be any way she wants to be.
She could have sex with as many partners as she likes. She still
has full authority over her body. So the next time a guy thinks a
woman is of "that sort", he should think again.
"Pink" grabs our collective biases and age-old notions about
permissible boundaries for feminine behaviour by the shoulder and
shakes them hard. This a film that can change gender equations in
our society. The first-half creates an atmosphere of terror through
little scenes that convey so much of the truth about gender
inequality and sexual politics without sweating over the drama
generated in cinema of this sort.
The background score is minimal and mellow, almost scoffing at
our perception of high drama associated with cinema on male
oppression. Aveek Mukhopadhyay's camerawork is so majestically
unobtrusive that it takes us into the heart of Delhi without
getting emotionally drenched in the journey.
The narrative is constantly in a hurry to get on with the story.
Yet there are poignant pauses in the plot.
Ritesh Shah's dialogues question flagrantly patriarchal values
with cool authority. Big B's sardonic arguments in the courtroom
are specially edgy and devastating.
This brings us to the performances. Each actor big or small
brings vast credibility to his or her part. The neglected Kirti
Kulhari comes into her own as Falak with a lot to conceal in her
Kulhari plays the character with such moral equity she leaves us
no room to judge her blemishes. Her breakdown in the courtroom will
shake every member of the audience, man, woman or child.
In contrast, Taapsee, who plays the main target of gender
assault, sheds no tears. She conveys her character's textured
torment with an austerity of expression that is remarkable. Andrea
as the girl from Meghalaya who gets caught in the vortex of a murky
scandal is the portrait of vulnerability.
But it is finally Bachchan who holds the key to this remarkable
film's incontestable power and efficacy. He is the voice of reason
and the conscience of a morality tale where right and wrong are not
easily identifiable. Yet when he sets forth reasons as to why a no
from a woman means no, we are looking not at a rousing courtroom
performance but a voice that ricochets through generations of
"Pink" offers us no easy comforting solutions to the issue of
women's safety. Should a city girl feel safe with a guy who is
well-dressed and from a well-to-do family? Is it okay to be
friendly with a man a girl hardly knows?
"Pink" poses questions and leaves the answers hovering in the
sphere of intangibility. It possesses an emotional velocity
regarding the theme of violating a woman's private space that we
last saw in Tapan Sinha's "Adalat O Ekti Meye".
That was 30 years ago. As we can see in "Pink", things haven't
changed much over the years for women in this country.
Don't miss this film, and don't walk out during the end-titles or you will miss out on two vital experience. Of knowing what really happened "that night" and of hearing the Bachchan baritone recite Tanveer Qausi's powerful poetry on feminine awakening.