Film: Angry Indian Goddesses
Cast: Sarah-Jane Dias, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajshri Deshpande, Anushka Manchanda
Director: Pan Nalin
Half-British-half-Indian Jonanna Mendes (Amrit Maghera) wants to make it as a Bollywood actor. The film opens with her shooting a fight scene for a film called Pistol Goli Ghahgra Choli. The director tells her to be the “damsel in distress”, to be sexy and “not act”.
Right at the outset, Pan Nalin’s message is clear: this is the kind of cinema he doesn’t want to make. This is the kind of portrayal of women he’s seeking to reverse.
His women aren’t wallflowers. They speak up, they kick up a fuss, they beat up the boy in the gym who gawks and harasses.
And he brings all seven of his ‘angry’ women — a photographer, a social activist, a corporate honcho, a homemaker, a singer, the aspiring actor, and the photographer’s domestic help — together for a Goan holiday. They come with their problems and emotional baggage, their biases and friction. It’s the perfect setting for a female buddy film, a women-only insulated world where they can be themselves and say what they like.
They get drunk, wipe piss from their legs after trying to use a men’s urinal, go from talking about arranged marriages to hot legs. Amid the fun and games, they also hear each other out, cheer one another on, chide, cry and give lots of hugs.
If you’re a woman, you might say, ‘That’s how we really are’. If you’re a man, you don’t so much need to have an opinion as be glad you’ve been allowed a window into this world.
Nalin shows insight into the female psyche; the camaraderie he builds feels real. And he’s able to reflect on individual problems and quirks, even if his plot is episodic in parts.
Yet, after painstakingly building his premise, he runs out of ideas. The dialogue becomes expository as the women rant about all that’s wrong with the country; how “women are women’s worst enemies”.
Then, as he tries to bring in more serious, even political, issues — Section 377, rape, police insensitivity — Nalin, quite literally, loses the plot. He resorts to clichés and cops remarking on women’s clothes, makes his goddesses behave maniacally, and finishes on a note so sentimental and hackneyed that he could be borrowing from the very formulaic mainstream he set out ridiculing.
Watch: The trailer of Angry Indian Goddesses
The last half an hour is so jarringly different in tone, and shows such lack of imagination, that it feels like a different film altogether.
Which is a pity, because Angry Indian Goddesses could have been truly unique. In fact, it is. Until it collapses like a house of cards.
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