Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and half stars)
Director: Nishtha Jain
As producer Sohum Shah rightly pointed out, documentaries usually don’t have the engaging quality that commercial cinema flaunts. However, filmmaker Nishtha Jain does conjure up one thrilling film with innumerable nail biting moments and many more emotional ones. Considering Gulabi Gang is a documentary based on the life of leader, Sampat Pal, the woman’s charisma is unbeatable. The documentary is equally appalling as daunting. Sampat pal isn’t any ordinary woman and tracing her life journey is quite a heavy task.
The social reality in Bundelkhand is the rampant atrocities against women, beaten, burnt, gang-raped and killed almost seem like a norm in those circles. For someone city bred and secure all my life, enjoying the normalcy of my existence, it was choking to be a part of the experience Pal shares.
In one of the instances, Sampat was investigating the case of a woman who was charred to death in her kitchen. Evidently a murder case, the ease with which it was treated is heartbreaking. Tampering with on scene evidence, the lackadaisical approach of the police, the apathy of her own family, it all clubs together to portray a horrifying story. When Sampat prods the deceased’s father, a shamefully drunk man says, ” It was the girl’s fate!” Unfortunately, the girl’s death was a brutal murder and hence cannot be attributed to her fate. The activist and her Gulabi Gang relentlessly pester the police, take the case to higher authorities and doesn’t give up unless full blown investigation begins.
It is not the young girl’s death that numbed me. But the character assassination afterwards that hit me worse. “She was cracked” said one of the villagers. Despite being the third wife of her husband, the compass of blame points towards a woman invariably. Patriarchy thrives because even women cannot stand up for other women but rather perpetuate the patriarchal norms systematically.
The documentary is not typical, the shooting style is brisk and mostly the theme is poignant. The celebration of woman power in such obsolete regional extremes of India that has for years remained devoid of proper literacy and awareness for women’s rights is inspiring. Sampat Pal and her gang is gutsy, fearless and celebrate womanhood is ways wider than ours. The story and its cinematic translation amazed me.
I won’t call Jain to be extremely inventive in what she has done. But her hardships render soul to the story. Most hiccups including a hurried and abrupt ending can be excused for the powerful storytelling she invests in. There is committed enthusiasm is what she does, an unfaltering quest in how she follows Pal in investigating the killings and deaths. The lady shows genuineness in her curiosity and compiles her recordings so brilliantly that the audiences are drawn towards the enchanting things she has encapsulated in her documentary. Her inclusive narrative is what works but the theme she has picked up reigns!
I have always maintained that getting preachy doesn’t guarantee popularity but consistent well-intentioned work does. The climax could have been tauter but the build up to where the story ends for me was outrageously fantastic. A Gulabi Gang member holds on to her views on morality more than the essence of their beliefs is terrible, thereby expressing that it will take a severe tumultuous change individually to witness a shift in mentalities.
Jain carries me with her daunting journey that I will hold on to for many years probably. The instances were revolting, the tall talks about women’s morality – a sham and the despite the distressing situations – Gulabi Gang is a ray of hope, brimming with optimism to change the stringent attitudes with galvanizing ferociousness. I am going with a 3.5/5 and a big thumbs up to the Gulabi Ladies. This movie made a part of your movement in spirit!
Gulabi Gang Trailer
Gulabi Gang releases on 21st February, 2014.
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