The film winds up as a tidy lesson on consent and society's double standards.

Despite the loudness of its messaging Pink is a must-watchFacebook/ The Film Pink
Features Film Review Friday, September 16, 2016 - 14:11

For a while now, Bollywood has taken an interest in portraying “consent” in mainstream cinema. If in a “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, we had a brief scene portraying marital rape, “Phobia” had a female protagonist who has casual sex with a man and later decides not to continue sleeping with him. Even in the immensely forgettable “Heropanti”, Tiger Shroff looks into the camera and soulfully says, “No means No!”. It’s another thing that he stalks the heroine and ‘wins’ her heart in pretty much the time-honoured tradition of Indian cinema.

If these films had consent as an aside, “Pink” makes it its main subject and is keen to drill the lesson into your head. Interestingly, though the film’s posters have had Amitabh Bachchan towering over the three female actors, his name appears after theirs in the credits. And in the same sized font. One wishes that the script had followed this good beginning.

“Pink” is immediately intriguing as we’re shown two cars driving down different roads in the opening scene: one has a man with a head injury, accompanied by his male friends, and the other is a cab with three women who look tense and upset. We’re not told what has happened. The three women, Meenal (Taapsee Pannu), Falak (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang) go about their everyday life, avoiding discussing the events of that fateful night. However, Rajveer (Angad Bedi), the injured man who has powerful political connections, and his friends are not going to let them get away so easily.

Meenal is soon embroiled in a police case and the character of the three women is called to question by what we like to call the “system” but is really just a projection of the many misogynistic notions and ideas that we carry in our minds as individuals. Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), a retired, eccentric lawyer comes to their aid and the rest of the film is a mirror held up to society.

Meenal, Falak and Andrea are typical urban, elite, young women, trying to survive in Delhi (where else?). They have tattoos and piercings, they drink and party, they have sex without marriage and they wear “short” clothes. Although the narrative doesn’t delve into who they are and what they do, they come across as authentic sketches, if not portraits, of the average urban woman trying to walk the tightrope of personal choices.

Taapsee is convincing and draws out your empathy as a wilful yet traumatized Meenal. Her alternating expression of rebelliousness and disbelief in the court room scenes are commendable, even though the screenplay falls into predictability in these portions. Kirti and Andrea, as her friends, deliver good performances too.

Where the film falters, is when it projects Deepak Sehgal as their saviour. When he begins his arguments, Sehgal starts out by sarcastically stating that this trial ought to become a manual for what a girl must not do in society. And that is precisely what the film turns into: a manual. The deliberateness with which this happens encumbers the storytelling; it is as if, Ritesh Shah (who wrote the story and the screenplay) and Aniruddha Chowdhury (director) were pre-empting criticism from the “bindiwale”, a disparaging term that a policeman uses to refer to women’s rights activists in the film, for not adequately covering all aspects of the issue at hand.

For instance, Andrea is from Meghalaya and when Rajveer’s counsel suggests that she is a sex worker because of this, Andrea bursts out saying, “I feel North Eastern girls are harassed more on the street.” The line is out of place and looks like an amateur attempt to tick all the right boxes. Amitabh Bachchan mansplains a lot about women and the prejudices against them with occasional interruptions from the ladies themselves. The three women, however brave and outspoken, still need a “hero” to save them, even if he’s an aged, somewhat strange patriarch. But despite this, it’s not as if the second half does not have its moments. Raashul Tandon as Dumpy, especially, provides some mirth in the sombre proceedings.

“Pink” winds up being a tidy lesson on consent and the double standards that society has for men and women. Its messaging is loud, repetitive and sometimes borders on sloganeering. But the authenticity of its female characters and their realities saves it from turning into a placard. The music and taut editing do their bit in helping one remain invested in the story.

 As a film, “Pink” might have worked better if the messaging had been subtler and the storytelling had stuck to showing and not telling so much. However, Indian films have been screaming misogyny from the rooftop for aeons now, so why be disconcerted by the loudness of the backchat? 

 

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