Saturday, December 05, 2015

Angry Indian Goddesses  

Ladies’ Special

If a young woman is seen cavorting in the garden with a hose, dressed in her inners, Bollywood logic has it that something bad will happen to her.

If a bunch of women are having a good time in Goa, they will be made to suffer for their happiness.

If gun appears somewhere in the middle of the film, it has to be fired by the end of it (at least the filmmaker obeys Chekhov).

Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses can’t be called a Bollywood film, but if a Mumbai filmmaker were to make a female buddy film, it would have the same trajectory. Only the suffering women would probably not be dressed in tiny shorts and strappy tops, showing smooth, depilated, cellulite-free skin.  (Might just send hormonal male teens to the multiplex to watch it!)

That women in India get more than their share of male chauvinism, is true, but all ‘types’ gathered together in the film, have problems caused by men or a patriarchal system, which is a bit much. Freida (Sara-Jane Dias), a photographer, gets sick of being told to shoot fairness cream ads, and chucks it all  to move to a lovely cottage in Goa.  She invites her female friends Joanna (Amrit Manghera) an aspiring actress, forced to swing her hips more;  Pamela (Pavleen Gujral) whose arranged marriage to a boor is reaching a childless dead end; Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul) a high-flying corporate type, who doesn’t notice the loneliness of her little daughter (Nia Dhime), a singer Madhureeta (Anushka Manchanda), forced to sing before drunken men because her careers is going nowhere and Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a tribal rights activist. To balance the class-caste issue is the fiery maid Laxmi (Rajshri Deshpande).  Freida says she has called them to attend her wedding but won’t tell them who the groom is, as if audiences can’t guess… after so much foreshadowing.

Even though their constant shrillness starts grating after a point, there is still come freshness and joy to this bonding, away from the male gaze.  In fact, the women ogle the shirtless neighbor as he washes his car; Joanna even has the hots for him, but a half-English, modern girl simpers when he is around, but doesn’t simply say hello and start a conversation!

Then, the problems start-- a run-in with some local male toughs, depression, marital problems, maternal guilt, alternative sexuality and every other cliché that can be thrown into the cauldron. And then the resolutions, building to an incredibly hokey climax.

Pity that nobody thinks of making a happy female buddy film, in which women’s issues are discussed—like they are in many living rooms—but not chucked at the audience like stones at rioters.  It’s easy to see why the film worked for an international audience—they haven’t seen too many films about independent (well, somewhat), high-spirited, urban Indian women.  But for an urban Indian woman watching this film, it is so overwrought that it makes for a tedious watch, in spite of the jumpy camerawork and frantic cutting in an attempt at edginess. 


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