Friday, December 11, 2015

ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES

It's been a long, long time since I wrote about something that I've watched or attended. Way back in college, I'd write regularly about any play, movie or concert that tingled my senses. I guess I had more free time then. Now, with profession-building, other distractions & the microblogging convenience of 140 characters, one tends to abbreviate their feelings into mere like or dislike without any depth to that assessment. I watched Pan Nalin's "Angry Indian Goddesses" a few nights ago & I liked it. I sat down to write about it & here are my thoughts. This may or may not be a regular feature on my blog, and it is not a "review", for lack of a better term. However, if it feels truncated to you, blame my Twitter addiction for it!

Make no mistake, Angry Indian Goddesses is not a festival film, even though it started off as one. It's every bit a commercial Hindi film with no stars but a bunch of good and/or natural actors and a great team to back them up. More importantly, it's one of the very few films in India revolving around all-female-bonding. We've seen the highs & lows of male bonding in Hindi films like Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Rock On & countless others, so it was refreshing to explore the "other" perspective for voyeuristic pleasure as well to perhaps understand the female psyche better.

Angry Indian Goddesses' premise is simple. A group of diverse friends get together in Goa for a friend's wedding & learn more about each other than ever before; their trials & tribulations, their personal demons and their anger at what it means to be a woman in today's India.The narrative may occasionally seem contrived but it's engaging & entertaining. I particularly relished the way it has been shot (must do some additional research on the cameras & techniques used here). We've seen innumerable movies shot in Goa but this was different, refreshing & pleasing to the used-to eye. The rapid edit, multiple cuts, the just-right colour saturation & constant dialogue flitting between the foreground & background was delighting and constantly teased the creative person in me. I'm assuming a lot of the dialogues were unscripted; a certain basic guideline was given & the actresses took over with some excellent improvisations (a fact corroborated by the credit given for "additional dialogues" to them). 

I guess the best measure of good acting is when you can't tell whether the actors are "acting." Sandhya Mridul and Tannishta Chatterjee are strong & reliable as always, and a worthy mention for Amrit Maghera; it takes a special something to let go like she does. She was very real even in her excesses. I know a couple of UK based friends who came to Mumbai with lofty dreams & became disillusioned with our perception of them, before picking themselves up again. In a film with good, honest acting all around, it's tough to pick favorites. Mine are Sarah Jane Dias (strength, vulnerability & those mesmerising looks), Pavleen (adorable) & Anushka Manchanda (honest, carefree & that voice; she's a natural here. What many people don't know is that, just like her character, she has a great talent and body of work outside Bollywood music, even though she's mostly known for it). 

There were many scenes where I could personally relate to the elation or pain the women went through, and the horrors in their reel lives felt palpably real. There is a point in the film where (spoiler alert) the issue of same-sex love & marriage is introduced into the narrative. Kudos to the makers for doing so subtly & matter-of-factly; even joking about Section 377 & our ignorant inability to differentiate one law from the other. Having said that, a big boo to the current censor certification team for some very silly and unnecessary cuts, blurs & beeps which would embarrass even the most conservative & narrow-minded viewer. What were they smoking? And how do such people even get appointed to these posts? Wait, don't answer that question.

A lot of what is said in the film is something we've already heard repeatedly in real life for ages. However, it's important that we continue hearing it until it registers, because it hasn't yet. I didn't necessarily like the way all the characters were painted as victims, but then again it's a 2 hour film with a lot to say, which is why it may seem excessive but in reality, it's not. It is an important film; preachy, screechy and too teary at times but important nonetheless. Many or all the things depicted in the film are a part of our country's reality. The film highlights the new-age Indian woman & the society's antiquated perception of her, social ills & discrimination against them, sometimes subtle, often blatant. This is not merely a feminist piece or a gang of girlfriends ranting away (although it comes close at times) but daily conversations given life on celluloid. Even though it packs too much into one film, we know in the depth of our hearts that these perceptions, crimes & mentalities do exist in our country. 

Will this film change anything? I don't know, and I doubt that Angry Indian Goddesses consciously aims at that. However, knowledge holds the key to change and awareness is an important aspect of that power.

With Goddesses like these, who needs heroes?

Definitely worth a watch.


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