September 28 2016
Ground-breaking Bollywood film shatters boundaries and asks difficult and urgent questions about women’s treatment in India…
By Tasha Mathur
FROM just watching the trailer of “Pink”, I had already prepared myself for a tough watch and the fact that I had to leave immediately after the film had ended, gives an indication of just how hard a watch it is.
But with a topic as current and as disturbing as sexual violence against women, it’s about time that the Indian public were shocked into action.
Real change must come and this appears to be the film’s ultimate purpose.
“Pink” centres around three strong, independent young women who share a flat in Delhi.
They go to a rock concert and befriend three guys and what starts out as a fun and innocent night, turns into a horrendous experience made all the worse by prevailing attitudes.
The night takes a seriously harrowing turn as one of the men, Rajveer (Angad Bedi) attempts to assault Minal (Taapsee Pannu pictured above main picture) who attacks him in self-defence.
Both are from well-heeled families for whom any whiff of scandal is about as serious as being seen smoking – so this off the scale in a society where everything can be judged to the nth degree.
As the film shows, these women were voluntarily with these men and were drinking and socialising with them.
To some in Indian society, that is already a sign enough of these women’s ‘dubious morals’ – while drinking is not banned (it is in some regions of India), in many traditional households it is only acceptable for men to consume alcohol, and women who mix freely with men who are not their relations or work colleagues, are also viewed with some suspicion. After all, what could they be up to?
It is all of these blurred lines that shockingly find the girls on trial for prostitution and violence, instead of Rajveer and his friends.
Enter Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan pictured above on page), a lawyer who suffers from bipolar disorder, but is compelled to come out of retirement to defend the innocent women.
Using the court as his platform, Sehgal questions a society where women’s behaviour is considered to be the primary cause of a vast number of sexual assault cases in the country.
Women smiling, laughing, drinking, wearing jeans, wearing short skirts and not being covered at all times, are all widely considered legitimate reasons for a man to have his way with her; the women who ‘indulge’ in all the above are ‘generally up for it’ goes the thinking of the average, unreconstructed Indian male and many women too, who unquestioningly internalise the same moral and aesthetic code on behaviour and dress.
The film, produced by Shoojit Sircar (“Piku“) and directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, left no stone unturned as it even touched on the lack of female solidarity in Indian society with matriarchs often playing a large part in women’s own oppression.
It was only with the help of a female chief police officer (as well as his uncle’s political influence) that Rajveer was able to fabricate the accusations against the women through the forging of official police documents.
The fact that these women chose to hang out with the men, also blurred the lines on consent at one level.
This was a very prominent point, which was emphatically made by Deepak Sehgal as he establishes that Minal did smile, did laugh, and did drink in Rajveer’s company, but what did she ultimately say to Rajveer’s sexual advances? ‘NO’.
“What did you say?” Sehgal keeps asking her. “No. I said…NO!” Minal finally exclaims.
“Pink” may be challenging to sit through, but is a very real portrayal of the plight of young, modern women in India today who are subjected to double standards, illogical judgements, obvious and more subtle oppression and an unfortunate ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ mentality.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if there is a happy ending but I hope it will wake up a society where sexual violence against women seems largely permissible because not enough people are challenging and confronting deeply prejudiced, outdated and rampantly sexist presumptions.
You can still see ‘Pink’ in UK cinemas