(Caution: This piece contains some spoilers.)
Aniruddh Roy Chowdhury’s Pink has rightly been garnering more than the usual level of attention a small film about women’s issues would get (because people tend to assume Indian Goddesses are always Angry).
The reason for Pink’s near-universal connect is that it talks about every bit of moralising, judgement and outright physical harm that a woman in India faces or is likely to face on a daily basis.
Combine the topicality of the issue with the feisty young women of the film and the gravitas Mr Bachchan brings to his sermonizing lawyer role; and suddenly Pink’s success doesn’t seem too much of a surprise.
Yes, the film has also received flak for being a tad over-the-top about the issue it speaks about (because let’s face it – the film could easily have been more subtle, but that would also most certainly have diluted its impact).
Here’s the thing, though. You can clearly tell that the intent of Pink wasn’t ever to milk feminism for the deluge of opinion and outrage it can engender, but to make a film that shows us what feminism truly means.
And to know that, you’ve to look beyond the pain that we sense the three girls in, or the over-cooked courtroom scenes involving Mr Bachchan and the terrific (but hammy) Piyush Mishra. Because the true essence of feminism in Pink, lies in something that may or may not be dismissed as mere passing detail.
(Caution: Spoilers ahead)
In the film, Taapsee Pannu’s character Meenal is arrested by a police officer, who also happens to fudge FIR records to wrongly show that Meenal was guilty of an act of violence. Mr Bachchan, as the aging lawyer Deepak Sehgal, proves in court that this police officer did it because of pressure from superiors, because the man Meenal attacked is related to a politician.
Just as it is in the paragraph above, the gender of the police officer is never ever a consideration in the entire sequence involving this officer in court; and this become more than incidental, because the police officer in question happens to be a woman.
There’s no indication at all that this police officer should feel extra guilty for wilfully doing something that would put curtains on a molestation case and turn the blame on another woman instead. No ‘how could you do it despite being a woman’ or ‘how could you do this to another woman’ or even ‘how can you help someone who has molested a woman’.
Instead, all we can see from the entire sequence is that an incompetent police officer buckled under pressure from superiors and attempted to make an innocent person look guilty. What this scene stands for is in essence, what feminism is all about.
Feminism isn’t about showing that woman are superior to men or that women deserve more rights than men. No one has to be extra nice or soft on a person only because they happen to be a woman.
What the feminist movement really strives for is equality at every level. In Pink, you see glimpses of this movement; not the "bra burning" "feminazi" stereotype that is carelessly attached to feminists time and again.
The police officer in question (Mamta Malik as Haryanvi cop Sarla Premchand) was shamed in court for being incompetent, which is completely okay. Feminism fights against shaming a woman because ‘she’s a woman’. From opening a conversation on consent, sex workers and the unwanted morality of a woman's sexual desires, Pink broaches upon many issues that are otherwise sexualised or considered taboo in commercial cinema.
The mature treatment of this particular character and the sequence involving her is what gives the makers of Pink the moral right to speak about the other feminist issues that the film highlights.
Because in real life, women aren’t pink; they’re grey.