Angry Indian Goddesses
Director: Pan Nalin
Cast: Sandhya Mridul, Amrit Maghera, Anushka Manchanda, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajshri Deshpande, Pavleen Gujral and Sarah Jane Dias
Womenfolk of the country, it is time to rejoice: India’s ‘first female buddy film’ hits theatres this Friday. For most parts, Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses is indeed an Indian version of Sex and the City, (of course much less sex, this is India with the censor board, remember?) and surprisingly, a good one!
Angry Indian Goddesses follows a group of seven women: Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias), a photographer, invites her college friends over to her family home in Goa. The diverse bunch includes CEO Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul), aspiring ‘Katrina Kaif-like’ actor Joanna (Amrit Maghera), struggling singer Madhureeta (Anushka Manchanda), social activist Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and ‘trophy wife’ Pam (Pavleen Gujral). Laksmi (Rajshri Deshpande), the maid, takes care of the house and Frieda’s friends.
The opening credits are a brilliant start for a film celebrating womanhood and friendship. It is a montage of sequences from the lives of these eight women fighting against misogyny in their different worlds: From struggling to be heard in a male-dominant film industry to facing the many lecherous looks while walking down a street, the prelude sets the pace for what’s in store -- women fighting gender inequality through the various phases of their lives.
But what also follows is a fun-filled ride that most women can identify with: having fun with old friends, teasing and complaining about one and another, and, at times, slipping into the depressive reality of their personal battles. Credit is due here to the actors and the writer of the film as these conversations flow effortlessly on-screen.
Be it Sarah asking Sandhya to ‘put on her black suit’ and walk her down the aisle on her wedding day or Rajshri fighting a court case against her brother’s murderer, a subversive element is clearly embedded throughout the movie.
What hurts though, as a woman viewer, is the fact that under the guise of showing women as independent individuals, the director ends up portraying them as characters itching to turn the tables on men to get privileges that men typically enjoy in our current societal set-up.
The debate on gender equality cannot be about ‘I deserve your place’. The debate and fight is about balancing the two. But then again, this is hardly an issue-based film; it is a Bollywood masala entertainer, only all the players are women.
Nalin refrains from offering a didactic and tidy resolution to any of the women’s stories. His characters can be unlikable and selfish, but they are all a wonderful reflection of real life. There is a fleeting reference to Kali, the Hindu Goddesses because she is the only Angry Indian Goddess in our mythology. But except for validating the title, the reference has little to do with the narrative.
After a good first half, the movie shifts gears post interval, and this is where it begins to falter. The shift perhaps was meant to give meaning to the title, but the story line becomes trite.
A mishap occurs and what follows are reflections on our patriarchal system. It could have been a tight slap on the face of male chauvinism had it not been for the rushed approach to the events. Revenge becomes a plot prop but it becomes too predictable and half-hearted to make Angry Indian Goddesses a milestone in today’s cinema.
Also, the last sequence shot in a Church has every cliche possible in the book: The struggling singer walks in singing a Konkani song, backed by musicians while she performs at a funeral service! People who know nothing of what transpired between the women and a police officer (Adil Hussain, in an apology of a role) show solidarity with the protagonists because they are women. Anyone with a decent sense of self-respect (irrespective of the gender, please!) would show contempt for such solidarity.
Ultimately, Angry Indian Goddesses is a decent watch as long as the fun lasts but tumbles downhill with gathering pace as the ‘anger’ kicks in. Watch it for its good acting, the director’s bravery in picking his premise and protagonists, but don’t expect a statement on feminism or a revolutionary Bollywood film’. You will be sorely disappointed.
Interact with author @SwetaKaushal