Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari
Date of release: September 16, 2016
WHEN TRIAL IS AN ERROR
The trailer of Pink begins with a question that is sudden and startling. Playing a lawyer, Amitabh Bachchan asks a woman in an open courthouse, “Are you a virgin Ms Arora?” His enunciation is expectedly faultless, but his stern manner isn’t comforting. It is initially unclear whether Taapsee Pannu (Chashme Baddoor, Baby) is a complainant or an accused. When quizzed about her virginity, she stutters. Courts, you realise, are no country for violated women. Violence, which had already once been committed, plays out endlessly. Pink’s trailer, similarly, offers very little respite.
We see Pannu and her housemates (Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang) threatened and intimidated. Thrown into the back of cars and police vans, they suffer a claustrophobia which is palpable. Their backs pushed against the wall, they have absolutely no room to retaliate. At one point, though, Pannu says to her oppressor on the phone, “I am bored, you coward. So stop talking and come and show me what you can do?” A part of you inwardly cheers when you see this display of courage. The exultation is sadly short-lived. Pannu and her friends might have forbearance, but Rajveer (Angad Bedi) and his posse have muscle and these perpetrators of sexual violence are typically remorseless.
Set in Delhi, the film will obviously resurrect memories of the December 16 gang rape. There is one difference, however. In Pink, the victim lives to tell her story. She battles for justice, and in that process, is jailed herself under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Self-defence is construed as an attempt to murder, and very quickly, questions of redemption become matters of survival. Pannu, Kulhari and Tariang seem to have captured vulnerability with a deftness that demands empathy and understanding. They are modern Indian woman, and it is this modernity that becomes their noose.
Like any good trailer, this two-and-a-half minute preview does not explain too much. For instance, we never know why Amitabh Bachchan walks the streets of Delhi, wearing an elevation training mask. His character seems to fluctuate between cold objectivity and a felt concern. You feel your spine sharpen when you see him argue in court. When he looks at Pannu and says she is a “woman of questionable character”, the shudder you feel is exaggerated by the actor’s delivery. According to media reports, Bachchan’s character is bipolar in the film. Pink already deals with the theme of sexual violence that needs careful unpacking. Adding mental health to this mix is surely a brave step.
The trailer to Pink promises a scathing film. The Indian justice system has time and again demonstrated a terrible apathy to victims of sexual violence, and this becomes only too apparent when one considers the frightfully low rates of conviction in these cases. Trials are often errors themselves. When Pannu asks who which woman would want to be forcibly touched or when Piyush Mishra asks, “How long have you been soliciting,” you are regrettably reminded of a reality that must never exist. It’s a pity that this film’s makers had to settle on a title as unimaginative as Pink.