SRIMOYEE TAMULI PHUKAN
Film: Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)
Director: Pan Nalin
This one has been a riveting watch. Though I am reaping fruit of this sensitively made movie a year and a half late, but the movie appeals in a way to prompt me to write a review.
To begin with, the film overreaches a tad bit in its attempt to touch upon too many hot-button issues – land acquisition, sexual violence against women, gay rights, judicial slackness, sloppiness of law enforcement, pressures on working mother and such. A movie that bites off on so much typically runs the risk of getting reduced to a half-baked affair with all good intentions. But luckily for the audience, the multiplicity of themes in this one are linked well enough for none of the concerns to hang unnecessarily. Why this movie manages to hold it all together is also because of a believable narrative voice at the core.
The film triumphantly rings in the message of ‘giving it back’ right from the opening scene, where each one of them is seen hitting back hard at a society that sees them as nothing but ‘breasts-arse-limbs’ strung together and made available for grabs. Yet the movie doesn’t lose touch with the emotional side of the story, without meditating on issues still, and offering well plotted quips for the right effect.
The characters played by gritty, fine actresses and relatively new faces balance the palate of the film and succeed to not represent women as mere ‘types’. Most of them are friends from college. And hence them being a motley bunch of women making different life choices, is not hard to stomach. The bunch looks like this – a struggling singer, a mildly successful photographer, a homemaker, a social activist, a corporate slave, an Indian-British actress struggling to make her foray into Bollywood. Even the endearing house maid, Lakshmi, and the little daughter of the only mother in the group, find enough screen presence to shine and have important part to play in taking the narrative forward.
As we become privy to the union of friends at an old dilapidated yet grand Goan house of the ‘host-friend’, we get a sneak-peek into their lives. The rooms in the house flow into the other fluidly, defying boundaries, breaking rules and creating a space for these young women to exist without limits. Soon enough they get into their old groove and loosen themselves in their happy camaraderie. In one scene, them checking out the bare-chested neighborhood guy, is enough fodder for the good-humored jokes to flow and these women bond over it like over nothing else.
This bon-homie gets punctured occasionally through believable interventions to give a glance into their real lives outside of this house. Slowly we get to know the girls a little better and like every other person in this world they too are fighting some demon that they are either too scared or too tired to address. The issue of gay marriage which gets addressed in a realistic light takes center stage toward the middle of the narrative. And with that, the audience, along with the rest of the girls, finally get their answer to the real reason for this reunion.
Most of the revelations that take place in the film are cleverly achieved through acts and gestures instead of dialogues. For instance, one of the girls sauntering in with a bridal dress unintentionally breaks the news of the wedding. But the surprise around the betrothed is kept under wraps till the bride ‘comes out of closet’ through a game of enactments.
Goa for a backdrop is merely there to offer a stage for the story to unfurl, and not to serve as a glamorous landscape. In a way, the grim and dark scenes of Goa is perfect setting to reveal the somber side to their lives and forebode the future. Soon the girls find themselves in deep murky waters. They get dragged into a situation for merely being who they are – ‘women.’ The usual curse of ‘chote kapde’(scanty clothes), gets spitted out liberally at them wherever reason or law seem to be of little service. A critique to which is offered by the housemaid who utters, ‘even a fully covered woman like me in saree is also not spared.’ So finally, how does one deal with a system, a society that might need another two hundred years to rise above these stereotypes is what this film seems to be asking.
The movie ends at a note that looks more like a page out of fiction. But it also sends out the message empathetically that when reality feels so fictional probably this is the only way to seek poetic justice. The final scene takes place in the church, almost as though, after the laws made by human have failed us, we turn to the God’s court. But it also caters to a funeral scene in the church, so it is all within the realm of reality. At the end, the little girl, looking glaringly at the policeman, joining hands in spirit with the crowd in the church, pleading guilty without batting an eye, and the end credits rolling out right after that, made for the perfect wrap for me. And this scene hits home the message hard and straight, that – it is about time we stood up with our women.