After quitting my dream corporate law job, I decided to take a couple of weeks off in the interim to prepare myself for a new role at an edutech start-up. That I was travelling with "safe groups" to touristy places was the myth my moderately conservative parents had believed for years. I finally broke to them this month that I'd been mostly trekking and backpacking alone across the country whenever I got a chance. Their faces fell like a child's might when told that there's no Santa Claus. But they accepted my solo treks and understood (albeit with copious amounts of fear and obvious discomfort) my need for alpha independence.
If the men in the movie said, "We need to teach these girls a lesson," the audience in the theatre would go, "Haan bey, behen***d kuch zyaada udti hai ladkiyan aajkal."
After my trek around the Pir-Panjal range, I decided to visit my ancestral home in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, before getting back to work again. When I was there, social media compulsively informed me about the must-watch factor of Pink. Twitter had been raving to me how this film is a new feminist manifesto. And of course it's Shoojit Sircar (no, I'm not a Bengali). So, I booked my tickets for the movie at the only PVR in Allahabad; my parents weren't interested and knowing the theme of the movie, I didn't get into it. At this point I was pretty relieved that they hadn't disowned me after my solo travelling confessions, so I didn't want to drown them in details.
By now, you might have guessed that what you're reading isn't a movie review of Pink. If you've read the headline you know that I found the movie "powerful". But I also call this movie a failure. In fact, I called Pink a failure much before the movie ended.
The reason is directly related to the particular audience with whom I shared my movie-watching experience—the semi-educated youngsters of a tier-2 city. The hall was half-filled, and around 70% of the audience comprised men/boys who were compulsively making fun of all the designed-to-be empathetic situations shown in the movie. To give you a glimpse, if the men who molested the girls in the movie said, "We need to teach these girls a lesson," the audience in the theatre would go, "Haan bey, behen***d kuch zyaada udti hai ladkiyan aajkal (Oh yeah sister---r, girls these days are losing sight of their limits)." They laughed throughout Amitabh Bachchan's heavy-duty court monologues and spewed abuse in the name of jokes for most of the movie's running length.
My reaction to them? I assertively told them that the hall was not their drawing room within the first five minutes of the movie. The result? I was warned by one of them to shut up. I changed my seat—I was on a holiday and didn't want to pick a fight and spoil it for myself (which is extremely unlike me, but anyway). During the interval, on my way back from the washroom, I walked into PVR manager's small cabin and requested him to ask these men to maintain some decorum. Like the police authorities in the movie, pat came his reply that he would "try." No-one came post the interval to check on these men. I wouldn't say that the fear the girls on screen felt in the first few minutes was a macrocosm of what girls like me feel each time we're alone and confront a male or several males superior in strength, but the feeling is somewhat similar.
Why I call Pink a failure is because it is yet another film that is unwittingly increasing the gap between the intellectual haves and have-nots.
Why I call Pink a failure is because it is yet another film that is unwittingly increasing the gap between the intellectual haves and have-nots. The movie was based on three metro-city women who were victimized because of patriarchal men subscribing to a feudal mindset. I still consider these men as the intellectual haves of our society. As one penetrates the tier-2 and -3 cities and villages of India, one realizes how the possibility of a dialogue or a court case does not even occur in such incidents. I strongly believe that the men in the theatre today do not have the mental acumen to engage with such movies. The male ego is way too strong for most men to give space to any other gender in their heads. This is not the first time I have seen this amongst Indian men. I travel to remote locations and I interact enough to know that concepts like "consent" and "marital rape" are alien to most of the households in India. I mean, leave alone wider society, even most parents being okay about women drinking and partying independently is a distant possibility.
I am not undermining the plight of the characters of the three women in the movie, but post-December 16, 2012, I've become extremely wary of the metro-relatability factor. Scores of other rapes happened on the same day in other parts of the country, as many others have happened since, but our society remains sharply divided. It's about time we dissipated our collective angers, energies, and messages to the intellectual have-nots of the society. Crimes against women cannot really be combated by law and brute police force alone. Excuse me for the repetition, but we all know how these crimes (including patriarchy) are social in nature.
Pink was powerful for me and my ilk of the educated intelligentsia, and it may have been a starting point for others, but it was a failure for the majority of Indians mindsets.
No, I don't blame the movie for its seemingly unrealistic and utopian broad-mindedness. Of course we need such cinema. My fingers are crossed for life to imitate the strong social messages in such art, but I have my serious doubts on how much such movies are impacting those who are completely unsensitized. Until we think of an effective trickle-down mechanism, change won't come as rapidly as we dream it will. My brothers, father, and others who are reading this already think like Amitabh's character in the movie. What's needed is for the same message, and essence, to settle indelibly into the kind of audience that needs it. We need to devise ways of taking this message to the streets. Pink was powerful for me and my ilk of the educated intelligentsia, and it may have been a starting point for others, but it was a failure for the majority of Indians mindsets.