Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink is perhaps the most relevant film, in terms of contemporary socio-political issues, to come out of mainstream Bollywood in recent times. The film deals with a plethora of gender issues, primarily the whole ‘consent’ debate and takes a definitive stand reinforcing the various factors as to why the seemingly trivial act of ‘taking liberties with a woman’ is an act of violence or an assault. Considering the general misogynist standards of Bollywood, the film is like a detailed drawn document of every possible argument and counter-argument concerning what is commonly known as women’s issues in our country and hence should be commended for the honest and earnest effort.
But, that’s about it!
Pink suffers from innumerable weaknesses in almost all of the technical departments, barring the acting performances, which makes the film a markedly less-than-enjoyable cinematic experience. The film is about three working girls in Delhi who had been victims of molestation and during the act, one of them ended up seriously injuring one of the perpetrators trying to resist him. Following threats and kidnapping attempts, the boys play their final card for exacting revenge; they use their political influence to slap a case of attempt to murder and prostitution, dragging them to court and unleash a great spectacle which majorly involved character assassination. In this extremely vulnerable moment the girls find help from the most unlikely quarter, an elderly lawyer named Deepak Sehgal living in the neighbourhood who gave up practice after being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
It is of course heartening to see Roy Chowdhury involved in a film like this, a world apart from the dreary experiences of Antaheens and Anuranans with their Ballygunge interiors, Fab India apparels, expensive whiskey and an elaborate ad film like aesthetic sense. However that alone cannot save the day, especially combined with weak writing, as it became evident in the expository sequences in the first half of the film. The scenes suffered from a lack of focus and in its attempt to operate in a quasi-thriller mode, the screenplay often became repetitive with a prolonged exposition which ultimately didn’t amount to much development in terms of either scenario or characters. The second half of the film unfolded almost in its entirety inside the court room and while the writing didn’t show a remarkable improvement, it was the spectacle of a legal battle of wits between the prosecution and defence which kept the film alive and kicking right till the end. And with the dust settled, the most glaring question in the entire screenplay has to be about the entire thread of Sehgal’s ailing wife and her subsequent demise. Perhaps meant as a moral centre, but the character and the scenes both betrayed a certain lack of investment and it just ended up being a distraction.
The cinematography in the film remained inconsistent and seemed mostly serving a functional purpose in the narrative. It was interesting to see the shift in light design within the girl’s apartment right from the vivid brightness in the morning and moving through various shades of darkness as the girls found themselves more and more threatened and the space changing accordingly. But then again it was equally disheartening to witness badly executed camera movements, some of them literally looking like NG shots which brings us to the editing department. If there is one thing truly and horribly wrong with Pink, it is definitely Bodhaditya Banerjee’s selection of shots and overall editing decisions throughout the film. Along with the writing, the editing should be deemed equally responsible for the failure in generating any sense of movement throughout the exposition mentioned above. Furthermore, there is something seriously wrong with the out points in a number of shots which prohibit the action from being completed, be it a sunrise or a character walking down the hallway. Then there is the tendency of cramming up too many shots within a given set of actions, unnecessarily heightening the pace which is completely counterproductive to the content and also interfering with the overall rhythm of the film.
Had it not been for the immense contribution of the actors, the film would have probably sank without a trace, despite its political correctness and honest intentions. The performance of the three girls bring a sense of resolve and vulnerability to the table. Taapsee Pannu’s physicality lends a distinct quality to her character as the main accused while Kriti Kulhari probably has the most etched out character among the girls and she does complete justice to it. Angad Bedi as the bad guy is convincingly revolting as the misogynist brute born to the regressive value system of Hindi heartland. Needless to say the most delicious aspect of the film was to see Piyush Mishra’s prosecuting lawyer pitted against Amitabh Bachchan’s defence attorney. Piyush Mishra delivers a memorable performance as a conniving lawyer, loud in his manners and adapting a rapid fire speech style resulting in a well-rounded character in contrast to Amitabh Bachchan’s understated and at times unpredictable delivery and mannerism. As for an assessment of his overall performance, it’d require another article to do justice. It’d suffice to say that he merely proves once again as to why he may be deemed as the most dependable star performer anywhere in the world! A special mention must be made of Mamta Malik playing a corrupt Haryanvi cop who stole the show with her little appearance on the witness stand.
On a final note, it is certainly encouraging to see a film addressing a set of socially and politically relevant concerns especially with an ultra-right wing party in the Government, and that too within the mainstream set up operating without the ‘arty’ aspirations of films like Aligarh, etc. It is obviously a step in the right direction. But one must keep in mind that skills and craftsmanship are the primary criteria for any art form. Despite the content of the film, in order to generate enough impact, there should be considerable improvements in the technical departments too.
Arup Ratan Samajdar