Tuesday, September 20, 2016


No Means No

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink comes at the right time, when the outrage over violence against women that exploded over the Delhi ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case, is still on simmer.

In spite of all the media coverage and debates, a large section of even progressive people would judge a woman if she put herself in a position that would be considered ‘high risk’.  They will comment on why a woman was out alone at night, drinking with boys, or wearing skimpy clothes.  Like, the stunning Hollywood film, The Accused (Jonathan Kaplan,1988), Pink raises the very significant issue of consent—that when a woman says ‘No’ the man should back off.

In India, as elsewhere, there is a class of entitled men, who may be highly educated, but retain their feudal mindset about how ‘good’ women should behave; ‘bad’ women are up for grabs. 

Set in Delhi, the film opens with three young women in a panic, rushing home in a taxi. In another vehicle, two young men are taking a third, bleeding profusely from a head wound, to the hospital. 

Minal (Taapse Pannu), Falak (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang) are working girls, sharing a flat in Delhi. After a rock concert they accept the invitation for drinks and dinner from a group of boys. The evening ends badly and to fend off molestation by Rajveer (Angad Bedi), Minal hits him on the head with a bottle and flees.  Rajveer is a politician’s son and powerful enough for the cops to dissuade Minal from making a complaint when Rajveer’s buddies threaten them, and try to bully their kindly landlord into evicting them. They also manage to get Minal arrested for assault and attempt to murder.

 Their strange neighbour, Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), who was once a great lawyer, comes out of retirement to take their case. In court, as could be expected, the prosecuting lawyer Prashant (Piyush Mishra) tries to prove that they are girls of easy virtue, and when Rajveer refused to be solicited, Minal attacked him.  Sehgal, of course, decimates his arguments and makes a strong statement for the right of women to say no, regardless of their past, their choice of clothes, or the place of encounter.

It’s all very cheer-worthy but also idealistic. In real life, the case would drag for years, the girls’ lives would probably be ruined while Rajveer and his buddies would roam free, build careers, get married and have families. (In the film too, Falak loses her job and is dumped by her much older boyfriend.) They would not get an erudite lawyer for free, nor a sympathetic judge (Dhritimaan Chatterjee).

Still, even with its predictability, Pink is a commendable film. Amitabh Bachchan, is of course, impeccable, but all three actresses have given fabulous performances. Taapsee Pannu’s haunted eyes and Kirti Kulhari’s breakdown scene will stay with the viewer long after the film ends.  There are flaws—like the needless track of Sehgal’s bedridden wife, or Prashant portrayed as a clownish bully. But what the film attempts—to tell the audience to be less judgmental of women—cannot be appreciated enough.


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