Friday 4 December 2015

Angry Indian Goddesses review: At best, this film is a montage of female bonding, nothing more

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There are many women in Angry Indian Goddesses. They are sexy, strong, brave and uninhibited. They lech at muscular neighbours, they drink, they smoke, they wear shorts, they joke about sex, they use cuss words (which get beeped out thanks to the censors), they barge into mens’ toilets, they yell at eve teasers, they break a goon’s bar with a cricket bat, they get hold of guns, they fight among themselves, they spell out some secrets, they talk about their life challenges as women, they get over self denials, they sing, they dance, they laugh, they cry. They bond.

They are angry with the film director who tells them to move their body and not act; with the leering goon on the motorbike or in the gym ogling at them, with companies who sell fairness creams and demand dishonesty from them; with fathers who tie them down; with un-supportive husbands; with cops who question their short skirts; with the Indian society, which doesn’t let them breathe freely and peacefully.

Hell hath no fury like a woman teased or disrespected. The film has all the right intentions and ideas and actors but it's just not effective enough. Between celebrating womanhood and showing their inequality angst, the story loses steam halfway.

Within the first five minutes of the film, six women get angry over their individual life situations.
One of them—Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul) loses her temper, walks out of her office, unbuttoning her business suit. Within seconds, she is stripped to her bikini as she dives straight into a pool. Mridul pulls off this unbelievable and amusing act with style and aplomb.
The rest—Madhurita (Anushka Manchanda), Joanna (Amrit Maghera), Laxmi (Rajshri Deshpande), Pamela (Pavleen Gujral ) and Frieda (Sarah Jane Dias) bring out their shoes and punches at eve teasers and leering men and bosses alike; but all one sees is a contrived cacophony.
By the time the film ends, it has built up to a major event when everyone is downright furious.
Unfortunately, their anger, however justified it is, doesn’t scorch the screen down. The emotional embers get scattered with the innumerable issues tackled by writer/director, Pan Nalin. Gender inequality, eve teasing, rape, gay rights, capitalism and land rights issues overcrowd a female bonding plot.
The film opens with a light, cheeky tone which pokes fun at some issues. Freida, a fashion photographer moves from Mumbai to Goa after a showdown involving fairness creams. She invites her friends to Goa and reveals a secret wedding.
A seventh woman, an activist—Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) enters the story later, bringing in a twist to the tale. There is also an old lady and a six year old girl to complete this all woman show. There are a couple of men with miniscule positive roles to show that are a few good men around. Of course.

Nalin treats the film like a Goan holiday. There is inane chatter instead of scripted dialogues. The camera is always on the move and holds only to capture Maghera’s soft beauty during romantic, dreamy moments. The songs in the background, blend in smoothly without distracting. It helps that one of the women—Mads, is a struggling singer. Manchanda’s real life role as a singer lends a touch of authenticity.

As the film progresses, predictably their secret problems are revealed. One of them—Pam, although clich├ęd, stands out in particular, purely because of her utterly natural performance as the Delhi subservient housewife who gets all coy when sexual details are discussed. Dias looks pretty and slips easily into the not so simple Goan girl. There are moments when Rajshri as the fiery Laxmi, reminds you of the maid in Monsoon Wedding. Mridul is a knock out as the no nonsense businesswoman who looks for cellphone network, atop a tree.

Nalin’s film is great as a montage series of women bonding without melodrama but completely loses the plot when it tries to tie in a bigger issue and ends up with a Hindi mainstream film climax.

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