I don’t know about you, but I don’t count myself as one of those who’d pay to get punched in the solar plexus. But a full house of a cinema hall and I did just that yesterday, and thanked the perpetrators for this bruising wallop to our somnolent senses. The said perps are director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and writer Ritesh Shah and that painful thwack is Pink.
Based in New Delhi, the movie begins on a high tensile plotline, and you’re introduced to three flat-mates – Minal Arora (Tapsee Pannu), Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari), and Andrea (Andrea Tariang). In parallel, you also meet Rajveer Singh (Angad Bedi), Dumpy (Raashul Tandon), Vishwa (Tushar Pandey), and Ankit Malhotra (Vijay Verma). In superbly built up sequences, you realize the two sides have had a deadly run-in, and that things are going to get interminably worse for the girls, and they do. The boys are well connected, the girls are regular folks, and the clash is pretty much one-sided. Enter Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), a lawyer who’s recused himself of practicing because of his bi-polar disorder, and who lives from across the girls’ rented house. Pretty soon, it becomes very clear that he’s their only hope, even as he’s battling his own illness and helplessly staring at his wife, Sarah (Mamta Shankar) battle her terminal illness.
Pink is a stunning achievement of sorts for Hindi mainstream cinema, and it pushes you to the dark side of living alone in a city – for women. The scenes where Ankit begins closing in on the girls are infused with sheer terror. And as the movie progresses, director Chowdhury and writer Ritesh Shah are merciless in their portrayal of the absolutely sickening rot in our cities, neighbourhoods, society, and law-order systems – of how, cloaked in the dual weave of bias and self-righteousness, judgement is passed on regular women-folk who’re out to make a living and lead the normal life. Of how matter-of-fact and easy it is to malign women folk on social media with a single photo and their mobile number; of how all the moral responsibility is dunked on women’s heads, making them walk a tightrope of “proper” behaviour and self-safety, heaven forbid anything they do or say that might incite unsuspecting men.
The second-half of the movie is almost completely based out of the courtroom, and yet the tension and pace never slacken, the plot buttressed by more uncomfortable mirroring of what’s actually defined in our society. Women from north-east come to the big, bad cities only for one reason. A woman going out to party is looking to get “it”. Women who drink are “available”. If a woman needs money, there’s only one way she can supplement her income. A woman who smiles wants “it”. A woman who’s friendly wants to be satiated. Pink throws these and other mind-sets out in the open, delivering possibly some of the best courtroom scenes in Hindi cinema. There’s no grand witness stand, and there’s no placing of hands on the Gita for added cinematic drama. Just a regular, non-glamorous courtroom that is carrying out its business as usual.
Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury brings to the screen a powerful movie, and he makes you watch it – sometimes in discomfort, sometimes with sheer nervousness. And he throws in powerfully directed scenes that stun you. The scene where Minal is kidnapped by Rajveer’s gang of friends is a harrowing experience. The denouement to that scene seems unbearably long in its coming, though it is not. And when Minal finally reaches home, the director throws in your face the sheer trauma that molested women face. Of how, life can never be the same for them and their families. The aforementioned court room scenes are directed deftly and with purpose and zing. There’s not an element of redundancy in any of the scenes, a showcase of Chowdhury’s purposeness of grip on his project. To read Amitabh Bachchan speak about the courtroom scenes is a revelation: “We had seven cameras inside the courtroom. We would do 20-page scenes in one shot, which means the camera would be running for 30 minutes and everyone is involved in what’s happening…”
Writer Ritesh Shah pens arguably his career best (and possibly a National Award candidate?) effort so far– the script’s tautly compelling, and he peels the plot layers smartly, not showing you what lies ahead or what happened in the plotline before the movie started. Apart from a very natural, hesitant-to-fire office cameo onscreen, Shah also pens dialogues that are sharp garnitures to the story and hit you with the precision that only cracklingly sequenced words can deliver. (A woman’s character is judged by the hands of the clock is a masterpiece and covers a bias that spans decades, if not centuries.)
Pink has an equally brilliant cast that make it this year’s best Hindi movie so far. Tapsee Pannu carries the brunt of the trauma on her capable acting shoulders, her performance so very believable as she swiftly sinks from short-lived bravado to whimpering helplessness, beaten by the very system that was supposed to have protected her. Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang are both very good. The former gets a volcanic outburst scene in the court that she tackles and executes with assured heft; the latter’s superbly subdued, her protestations and quiet rolling-of-tear-down-the-eye simply heart-breaking. Angad Bedi as the feudal, ugsome alpha male is very good, as are the actors who play his friends. Piyush Mishra as Prashant, the public prosecutor is sickeningly slick and good. His insinuating inflection and breathless accusations are a treat to watch; as is Dhritiman Chaterjee as Judge Satyajit Dutt – a quiet, dignified performance that’s polished with grace and maturity.
And then there’s Amitabh Bachchan. There is only one actor in the industry who could have delivered Deepak Sehgal’s depressive intensity in the cinema hall. And it is he. From a smoky-eyed, lost, everyday man to a lawyer with a purpose, the actor is simply a magnum opus of performance. His dialogue delivery in the courtroom scenes are absolutely a treat. When he’s chiding his witnesses, his eyes playfully apprise them. When he’s riling Angad Bedi’s Rajveer, his eyes drip disgust and disdain. When he delivers the rules for the Safety Manual for Women, his delivery spears your senses, the tip dipped in vitriolic sarcasm. And when he confronts Tapsee Pannu’s character on the stand, his dialogue delivery makes your hair stand, freezing them in that position with icy precision. And note the scene when he appears in front of the girls’ front door in his lawyer’s clothes. He stares at them, turns around and then flicks the file in his right hand to his left hand, that gesture a superb defiance of his illness and of his determination to help them.
Shantanu Moitra composes a very effective background score, using the sitar, electric violin, and the keyboards (played by the composer himself) to bring in pieces that move from the ominous to the hopeless. The sound design by Bishwadeep Chatterjee is top-class, the foley for the courtroom scenes as natural as they get. In an intense scene between Tapsee Pannu and Amitabh Bachchan, you can hear the corridor sounds and background of people talking outside as they pass by the room. That’s truly lovely detailing.
Pink, then, is not just another colour to mark a marathon for women; or a cute colour to mark girlish cuteness and giggles. Pink is that deep, disturbing colour that ought to bruise our collective conscience every time a woman is subjected to indignity and harassment; pink is that colour that ought to blind men out to quench their feral hunger, and where any woman is easy prey; pink is the colour that covers all sartorial choices that women make, regardless of what they choose to show or not; pink is the colour that ought to freeze men and backtrack when a woman says, “No.” Pink is the choice that women make and men ought to respect. Pink is not just any other colour. Pink is not just any other movie. Go get punched.
Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury Running Time 2h 16 min
Writer Ritesh Shah
Stars Amitabh Bahchan, Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Tariang, Angad Bedi, Piyush Mishra
Genres Drama, Thriller
Watch the trailer of Pink here: