The month of September has been a treat Indian cine-goers with meaningful films like Island City, Pink (and now Parched) adding to the delight in the midst of all the balderdash.
Last week’s release, Pink was a strong statement against the deep-rooted misogyny in our society. With his very crafty use of subtlety and brutal realism, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury taught us when a woman says ‘No’ it means no.
The strong screen presence of Amitabh Bachchan and Piyush Mishra, accentuated by the bold performances of Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Taring and Angad Bedi, truly complemented the effortless writing and skilled camerawork that made the thriller-cum-courtroom drama a treat for the senses.
Pink Movie Poster
Pink gives us a message without being preachy. It deals with the oft-so-repeated clichés about feminism, but the fresh treatment drives home the message so effortlessly that you are numbed by the time end credits roll.
The one scene from the court, where Palak breaks down in the face of constant grilling of the prosecution is extremely relevant in our times. So what if a woman takes money in lieu of sexual favours? It is well within her rights to say no, and when she does no one dare force her into bed!
In fact, out of the three female protagonists, Palak will remain my favourite. With shades of grey, she is the weakest among the lot – but when harassed to the point of brink, she stands up to the bullying boys and refuses to cow down!
The best thing about Pink is that the film does not offer us any scope of being judgmental. The incident at Surajkund which triggers the chain of events in the film, is shown in the end credits – the audience keeps guessing and putting pieces together based on the witness accounts in the courtroom.
At a time when rapes have become just another headline in the inside pages of newspapers, molestation is commonplace and eve-teasing sort of birth right for the men, Pink brilliantly tears down the false notion that women who drink, socialise or solicit with men, are inviting them for sex.
While Pink deals with four middle-class girls from South Delhi, Parched is set in the deserts of rural Rajasthan; an antithesis of the urban saga. It is the story of four women who are ‘outcasts’ even in the 21st century.
Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is a widow who weds his teenage son to a 15-year old Janki. Although Janki (Lehar Khan) has a lover in her village, she is forcefully wedded to Gulab (Riddhi Sen) for money. To foil the wedding, Janki even sacrifices her prized possession – her waist-length hair, thus becoming a laughing stock in the village.
A scene from Parched
Rani’s friend and soulmate in the village Lajjo (Radhika Apte) is a happy soul save the fact she is unable to bear a child. Obviously, the husband thinks it is the fault of the woman as men can never be infertile. Her barrenness is a reason for misery and nocturnal abuse for Lajjo. Rani has another friend, Bijli (Surveen Chawla) who dances at the ‘tamasha’ by the evening and sleeps with men for money at night.
‘Parched’ in true sense is a film about women’s liberation. It is not coincidental thus the climax occurs on ‘Dashami’, the last day of Durga Puja (or Navratri in the part of India where the story is set). These four women, cocooned in their worlds, have their share of fun. They joke about men, come up with curse-words named after men (move over MC, BC), seek solace in each other and are also involved in making handicrafts for a local self-help group.
Patriarchy comes in any form – whether it is the abusive husband or the brash son who looks down upon his widow mother, or even the customers who think they own a woman because they have paid for her for the night. Society deals a rough blow to the four women but they refuse to be bogged down. Their thirst for freedom in this parched land keeps them going.
Tannishtha Chatterjee and Radhika Apte are both strong actors with their own legacy and do full justice to the roles. Surveen Chawla is a revelation as Bijli. This confident young girl refuses to let go of her aspirations even when a new ‘tamasha’ girls forays into the circus or when the man she thought understood her desire for freedom fails to live up to her expectations.
Leena Yadav’s film is raw, bold and real. She drives home the message that women have the right to decide the course of their lives, no one else. The whole film has an earthy feel and the dialogues are at times raunchy. The writing has various shades – from gloomy to boisterous, as is life.
Films like Pink and Parched need to be made more often. More stories like these need to told if the centuries-old patriarchy has to be eliminated. Thanks to Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Leena Yadav for making a start.
My Rating: 4/5 stars to both the films
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Children of war weaves together four parallel stories – all interconnected in one aspect – the struggle of liberation in Bangladesh and the horror of tyranny unleashed on Bengalis across faiths in East Bengal by the Pakistani establishment in 1971,
As ordered by the Pakistani administration and trying to control the developing interest for liberation and making of a free Bangladesh, the Pakistani Army which was posted in Bangladesh was given supreme forces to run the nation in the manner they best regarded fit.
Aamir, a noted columnist, is assaulted by Malik, a General in the Pakistan Army and his wife ruthlessly raped in front of his eyes. Fida is taken, alongwith several other women, to a Nazi-style concentration camp where they will be impregnated with “Pakistani blood”.
Rafiq and his sister Kausar miraculously escape when the Pakistani Army attacks their village. They live on, with the hope of crossing over to India one day, when they meet a group of migrators. Aamir, meanwhile, gets in touch with a man (Farooque Sheikh) who is heading a small unit of Mukti Bahini.
Children of War stands out from other films made on the theme of Bangladesh Liberation War in terms of the extent to which human suffering has been portrayed on the screen. The violence unleashed on the inmates of the concentration camp, the inhumane torture, ghastly scenes of rape would rattle one’s conscience.
Pavan Malhotra stands out in his depiction of Malik, the cold-blooded Pakistani General who thinks he is serving his religion and nation by playing with the lives of innocents. Tilottama Shome, in her brief appearance, steals your heart away. Her death leaves you numb. Raima, Indraneil easily evoke the right emotions in the hearts of the audience. Riddhi Sen is stellar in his transformation from a young brother to the ruthless protector of his sister.
Director Mritunjay Devvrat deserves accolades for coming up with a film like this in his debut effort. The screenplay stands out as the mainstay of the film. Even the cinematography is spellbinding. I am not sure where the film has been shot, but it no doubt encapsulates the beauty of Bengal, even during troubled times. There are several rape scenes but at no point do they seem to be planted in the plot just to grab eyeballs; in fact, they successfully evoke empathy.
Children of War reminds us of one of the biggest genocides of human history, perpetrated by Pakistan with full support of the Western establishment. It also acts as a wake up call to all Bengalis, on both sides of the border, who have become oblivious of the history of the land. It also dispels the myth that Hindus were the only targets of the “holocaust” of 1971.
More importantly, the film helps understand that war for independence may have ended, but the struggle for justice has not.
Thank you Mrityunjay Devvrat for this great tribute to the Maati.
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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