My work and travel schedule has not allowed for much cinema-going these days, but I made an exception for the movie Pink. The initial reviews were raving about how everyone should watch this movie and take their friends too. The fact that Shoojit Sircar’s name was associated with it was certainly a contributing factor for me to go to the movies to watch this one instead of waiting for it to come on TV.
Now, I fully understand that a movie is only a commentary on the topic at hand. Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a commentary and could just be an an artistic expression of a thought or a point of view. I fully understand that there need not be a ‘moral of the story’ or a ‘solution to the problem’ in a movie. Sometimes the storyteller only needs to broach the subject and leave the rest to the viewer’s imagination/discretion. But here’s my issue with the movie Pink: The movie’s second half is filled with rousing monologues and satirical one-liners in an attempt to portray to the viewer that ‘there is hope’. They ‘win’ the case at the end. Ironically, I left the theatre feeling more forlorn than hopeful.
Was that the emotion that the makers of this movie were targeting? Full marks to them for bringing up the subject, though.
Let’s explain where we are left off before the interval. The first half is an interesting set-up. Three women get into a dicey situation with 3 young men after a rock concert. The viewer doesn’t really know what happened, but the women make it home shaken but safe. From there, the misogynist, patriarchal mindset of certain men and society at large, that cannot comprehend a free-thinking woman’s lifestyle, is beautifully portrayed. Three schools of thought for dealing with such situations are wonderfully depicted through each of our 3 friends. The feisty one wants to fight the injustice, the pragmatic one attempts a diplomatic resolution and the moody one takes to her guitar and retreats into her shell. The story builds up to a point where, very convincingly, the women are at odds with the situation they are in, and are helpless. Blow after blow is delivered to their morale, and whatever brave facade they put up is methodically demolished. It’s an uncomfortable truth portrayed in the worst case scenario. The men in my up-scale theatre in Bangalore were feeling squeamish in their seats and there were many unconformable silences. It’s the 3 of them against the world- or so it seems till Amitabh Bachchan rises to the occasion.
Here’s where we are when we break for popcorn and to check our phones. At this point, I thought to myself, I’ll be disappointed if the second half only shows Amitabh as the superman who saves our damsels in distress. And unfortunately, that’s what the second half is. While is is not as straight forward as that, the gist of it is that their bipolar lawyer neighbour saves the day by fighting their case and delivering many thought-provoking, but monochromatic dialogues. I say monochromatic because it’s all one-sided. Yes, we get the loud and clear message – No means No. Even a husband cannot have sex with his wife without her consent, let alone some stranger who has just met the girl. And the fact that a woman is sexually active, wears certain clothes, is independent, lives away from her family, or is friendly with guys, should not be considered an invitation or a certificate for ‘looseness’. We get it. But is it really as simple as that?
My main issue with this movie is: what about the women who don’t find an Amitabh Bachchan? What about women who are not lucky enough to find a saviour? What is this movie telling me about those cases? There is a feisty quality in one of the girls. She loses all confidence in the first half and is trapped. If the movie would have somehow shown that the introduction of this one strong male character brings the grit and confidence back in her, I’d have been so much happier with the outcome. And more importantly, the metro-sexual men who where watching this movie in Bangalore were perhaps made uncomfortable by the strong message of the movie, but did the movie drive this point home in the rest of India? I read an article by a girl who travelled to her native town in North India and watched this movie in a local cinema. Her account of things states that the men only jeered and laughed through the movie, and mouthed the bleeped out ‘Randi’ in the same entitled misogynistic attitude that the movie has tried to mock!
Maybe I’ve misunderstood the whole point of the movie. Maybe leaving the viewer unsettled and forlorn is the idea. Because that’s certainly the reality of our world today. Not more than a week ago, while walking to the bus-stop near my home, I encountered a young man who locked eyes with me and wouldn’t look away. I looked at him angrily as he passed by me and he gave me the ‘come hither’ version of eyebrow raising. I stopped in my tracks, turned around and asked him for his mothers number. He walked away after that looking at me as if I was off my rocker. It may seem like a simple thing, but why do men feel that if a woman is looking at them in the eye it’s flirtatious? Why are women taught to lower their eyes with fear? Why are men not taught to lower their eyes with respect? It was a meaningless event, but it left me fuming a long time after my bus had pushed off toward office. I’m no feminist, but this silly event made me as angry as I was as a child, being admonished by my mother for putting my little finger in my ear in public. What if it’s seen as a symbol for ‘penetration’ by the men watching me? Only this time, it was my husband telling me not to lock eyes with such people. ‘Look away’, and don’t invite trouble.
Coming back to the movie, could there have been a better way of showing a ‘win’ than just a lawyer pulling the helpless women out of their misery? Could there have been a more just counter-filing of a case against the 4th man who, even if not involved in the initial incident, enjoyed showing a woman her place by molesting her? And what happens after the win? Do his friends just let the women be? Does everything go back to being handy dandy? Then there is the issue of sensibility. I may sound like one of the men in the movie when I say this, but how moral are girls who willingly go with 3 strangers to their private rooms in a resort after a rock concert? Perhaps the movie uses this extreme as a way to show that regardless of the girls own morality, consent is required. Even if the girl is a prostitute, she can change her mind and withdraw her consent. Fair enough. But in the process of doing that are you not painting all ‘working women’ with the same brush? Are you inadvertently saying that a so called ‘free-thinking woman’ is forgiven all sins because rape is still rape? Is is really too archaic of me to think ‘They should have known better’? Sure, ‘It was a mistake’ and they should not be punished for it, but are we going a bit too far with the changed ideals of the modern woman? But then the story of a middle class working mother who is harassed in her work-place, and doesn’t do anything about it, would not have made for such a shocking and riveting story. In the end, how ‘Pink’ are we really?