PINK Review: Are You Enlightened Or Just Entertained?

PINK Review: Are You Enlightened Or Just Entertained?

WARNING: Spoilers ahead but it doesn’t cause any real harm in this one. 

After a banality of clichéd content that managed to keep Bollywood on a rampant typicality and regular public in the theaters, came PINK that attempted to break the mold. With the name of Shoojit Sircar, and a just approach by the writer, Ritesh Shah, the audience FINALLY saw what us feminists have been yelling at the top of our voices for centuries. Yes, it took a mysterious training-mask wearing Amitabh Bachchan to tell the masses that “Dude, NO means NO!”

Don’t get my tone wrong, I loved the film just like you did. But let’s just give it one of those reality check reviews.

What’s for real?

First of all, no doubt, the storytelling deserves your love. A gripping and detailed tale of a hangout gone wrong takes you vehemently through the edges of three women’s attacked modesty and impeached personal lives before finally offering you a seat in the court where Bachchan sahab gives a lesson on consent.

You get a sense of that north Indian misogynistic rage  when the dudes plan to teach these girls a lesson. You can also feel the realism of harsh intimidation that the prosecutor (Piyush Mishra) puts to prove that the women are solicitors, by constantly shaming them from every angle possible. The performance of Piyush deserves a medal as he manages to make every one in the hall chew their seats with his arrogantly stuttered speech and wearing that vibe of an asshole that everyone has an out-of-the-belly hate for.

The irresistible outbursts of the three women at different times is something new. I’m sure dialogues like “Kisko accha lagta hai, koi is tareeke se chhue, zabardasti!” (Who likes to be touched in such a manner, forcefully) have never been echoed in the lanes of Bollywood before where stalking, harassing and assaulting are magical methods to successful courtship. The issue surrounding the lives of women are portrayed in a way that it questions every angle there is, to view it – A satisfying blow to the discrimination against north-eastern people living in Delhi will steal your heart and it’s probably the first tackle ever seen on the silver screen.  The film grabs  by the neck all the victim-blaming arguments of a patriarchal society and chokeslams it with blunt sarcasm, delivered by a weighty-voiced Amitabh Bachchan. You see how I keep coming back to our beloved Mr. Bachchan? Here is why.

 What’s not for real?

As I drooled over the heated cross-examinations and debates, that formed the core of this film, I couldn’t help but relate to what I and most of my feminist friends do on the social media regularly. It all felt like a hot debate comment thread we come across once in a while. Like the writer sat down with a couple of friends, divided the group into two teams- feminists & misogynists, shot up a nice and long comment thread and directed it on the screen.

The unrealistic props did not seem right when put under true circumstances. For example, a highly rational judge who never once took a victim blaming swing at the accused women, or a trial that lasted only a few sessions before giving a clear decision in favor of humanity. It’s not what happens. While the judiciary system remains a muddle of corruptions and compromises, women have to go through the most disgusting aspects of its so-called procedures. But I get it. It’s called drama for a reason. Alright, I will give you that. So, what did people learn?

Did they really take home the teachings of Amitabh? Or were they just there to see the good side beat the bad side? I am not the one to make presumptions but we live in a country where victim blaming nurtures within families as ‘Sanskaars‘ . Most of the uncle-aunties clapping over an on-your-face feminist counter just did not fit. There is a fair chance they would still go home and take the very same side (as shown in the film when the girl was being taken away to the police station) when something like this involves their children or known people. That’s where casting Amitabh felt important. Had it been a woman or an actual feminist speaking in his place, it’s very possible this brilliant idea would have ended up in  the trash. Business is important. Risks cannot be taken. It’s enlightenment all the way trying to infuse some rationality in feudal heads, but it’s boring to people until Bachchan sahab says it and makes it an entertaining piece, because who wants to get involved in feminism afterall. I remember chuckling inside when I could see everyone applauding and woo-hooing feminism. It was quite ironic, I wonder why they diss it otherwise.

The Indian audience thrive on emotional frenzies and a lot of it had to be injected into the film at certain points because if it were to be brutally put into an authentic setup, a quick positive victory is not what would have followed.  Not to mention the giggles and laughs around the hall when the women were being harassed and inculpated by the police officer and this is very mild in comparison to what happened with Aanchal Arora, when she went to watch the film in Allahabad.

Question is not whether or not you understand it – it’s fragmented beautifully into a very understandable explanation of what consent means. And the “safety manual for women” invented by Amitabh exposes the mindset of the people as well as the system. Question is whether you will allow yourself to follow it. Can you expect a fairer service of justice to the victims of abuse because now a majority knows what has been wrong with them all this time? Chances are rare. It should have been a film on the debate of consent but it looks like it became an Amitabh Bachchan film. Hopes are not high but appreciation is due since Shoojit Sircar is willing to pick on topics like these and delivering justice to them. Rest of the responsibility lies on us whether after watching a film that has strong feminist values, would we still go for the next one which reeks of pure misogyny?

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Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

PSruminates

The world had just stepped into the 20th century when Alice Guy-Blaché released ‘The consequences of feminism’ in 1906 which became the first ever movie to lay out an honest depiction of a rather reversed patriarchy where women were envisioned to roam freely in the society enjoying leisure activities while their male counterparts were demoted to child-rearing and household jobs. This daring portrayal despite being a menace in such an era marked the very beginning of a sub-revolution for women filmmakers and directors who are still grappling to raise their heads up in this highly male dominated field of art. The strong trail of the first women filmmakers putting their foot down then began with Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner in the US, Tazuko Sakane in Japan, Germaine Dulac in Europe and finally Fatma Begum in India, who started her own production company and directed ‘Bulbule Paristan’

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Paralympics And The Bias Inside Us.

Paralympics And The Bias Inside Us.

The Paralympics torched itself to a grand start on the 8th of September and the world suddenly had greater issues to address. My news feed felt like an after-party house from the recent Olympic farewell and it was quiet and calm. We had moved on. After repeatedly googling the happenings at Rio and bookmaking the official website, I came to know India had won 4 medals including 2 golds, one silver and one bronze. I rushed to every progressive page I was aware about to see if there were professionally taken pictures of these players with their stories and taglines. Zilch. I realized I wasn’t a world savior either after I calculated the dead ratio of shared posts on my own profile.

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India’s Devendra Jhajharia reacts after his last throw in the men’s javelin throw F46 final of the Paralympic Games in Rio, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Jhajharia won gold and set a new world record. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

So what was it, then? We’re not bad people, we do care about the disabled, every other minority and who doesn’t love the Olympics? Then what kept us all from celebrating these wonderful victories this country has ever had the privilege to taste? The answer lies in the acceptance of our own impartiality. We’re biased and it is OKAY to know that.

Differences exist but they do not exist enough to measure the potential considering the fact that the first ever disabled athlete, George Eyser (Germany) competed in the able-bodied Olympic games. He won 6 medals in a single day within Gymnastic events with one artificial leg. It was 1904. This and such unknown facts are enough to take down all  the “uniqueness” that we cherish in Paralympics which glorifies the athletes’ disability. They’re played on the same field, they are umpired by the same rules and the medal is as gold, silver, bronze as the regular one. The only difference is the way  you and I see it.

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Image Courtesy: Missouri History Museum

“You’re such an inspiration”, “There is no such thing as an excuse” and other such emotionally strong statements are ready to burst out as soon as we see a player with down syndrome, weight-lifting or a sprint runner on wheelchairs. The Guardian journalist Frances Ryan calls this ‘inspiration porn’ where we equate disability with inspiration, to objectify athletes for the benefit of those watching. “Superhuman” is another term frequently used in motivational videos, and was recently used in a British advertisement featuring Paralympic athletes which is widely appreciated for using disabled performers in its video.

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VANCOUVER. JULY 9, 2014, – Jackie Barrett from Corner Brook, Newfoundland competes in Special Olympics powerlifting at UBC in Vancouver, B.C., July 9, 2014. In the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, he lifted 589 pounds, earning both the record and and gold medal. (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo)

While the fight with discrimination has moved up a notch for champion countries like Britain and USA, India still has a long (really long) way to go. With an extremely corrupt system and selfie-hungry officials, the country’s entire sport structure stays on life support. Leave alone the post-games condition of the Paralympic athletes which are as tragic as their impairments. Media can be undoubtedly blamed forever but it’s time we start blaming ourselves too a little. Remember, media only shows what is received well.

Suchandra Ganguly, founder of the Civilian Welfare Foundation, a Kolkata-based NGO that works with the Para athletes brought in light, the misery of Indian athletes and called out the discrimination by the media. In a press conference she said,

“It’s an irony that Mr Modi has wished them luck but no Indian network including (national broadcasters) Doordarshan has come forward to show the feed. “Paralympics will go unnoticed and the athletes effort will be buried if media also choose to ignore them. We are not asking for sympathy but due coverage of their honest effort. They also give their best to win laurels for the country and it’s not recreational sport,”

Like the heart pounding victory of P.V Sindhu, the first women to win a silver in badminton, we have a lot of firsts in the Paralympics as well – The first female athlete to win a silver in shot put, the first athlete to win two golds in these games and the first athletes to win medals in an event like high jump. Yes, the first athletes and not Paralympic athletes because they work  as hard as the able-bodied and they fight a much intense battle than them. If comparison needs to be established, let it be both ways. By the way, did you know there is also a Special Olympics for the intellectually impaired and ‘Deaflympics’ for deaf athletes that goes parallel with Paralympics with a participation of over 170 countries? I will let you find out about them.

But again, no constant updates were seen, no posts were made and no sofas were exhausted from all the zestful jumping when these athletes delivered a dignified performance. A performance that even broke the Olympic records. Yes, it wasn’t on TV and we’re too lazy to browse through the internet for such news but active to browse endless memes.

You know normalcy is still supposed to be fought for, when famous sports commentators like Novy Kapadia are ready to state the “difference between the level of competition”, when asked how these athletes are out-doing the optimistic Olympic performance.

“The competition at the Olympics is much tougher,” where Indian athletes compete with counterparts from around 200 countries”

Using the term “tougher” here shows us the utter eagerness to justify the poor performance of athletes along with discriminating the differently abled. What “tougher” are we really talking about here? The number of participant countries remain the same and the picture below is enough to demolish the so called difference of difficulty level.

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Matt Stutzman from the USA won silver in the men’s individual compound open at the London Paralympics. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

The media remains focused on cricket and Google does not have an automated outlay of schedule and results as it did for the other ones. Why? Simply because this is less important, because there is no Usain Bolt, no Michael Phelps and because we are busy enough to not know about it but have just enough time to attain that “inspiration” when we see a tossed video with a sad piano music in the background.

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Deepa Malik during her event of Shot Put at the Paralympics in Rio, Brazil 2016 (AP Photo)

The bigotry is concealed and resides in those unreachable corners from where we can only smell it. Nobody likes to be called prejudiced but accepting it is the first step towards a clear defeat. Devendra Jhajhariya, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Rohan Singh, and Deepa Malik (who grappled a spinal tumor, 31 surgeries and 183 stitches before bagging a silver in Shot put event) are some of the names we will never remember in future just like this article which will fade away in the sea of Facebook posts. But what we will always be reminded of is that stale smell of blatant bias that we need to confront.

Rob DenBleyker’s ‘Depressing Comics’ have a purposeful message for all of us.

Rob DenBleyker’s ‘Depressing Comics’ have a purposeful message for all of us.

<<Trigger Warning: Depression>>

*Scroll..scroll..scroll*

Everyday we scroll through our news feeds projecting a mere computation of our thoughts, feelings and impulses. And like any upskilled scroll-er we make a few stops- stuff that is important! Rob Deynblaker’s heart-touching strip-comic page Cyanide & Happiness is one of these major halts.

by Cyanide & Happiness
by Cyanide & Happiness

Articulated in the soberest of illustrations these comics gouge out the inner dark corners of its viewers with their unexpected extrapolations. The uneventful humour touches the world of dark comedy in the right spot and every last frame of every strip is an awaited experience.

Recently was the ‘depressing comic week’. A small series of tiny heart-wrenching chronicles that left everyone to spare a minute out of their lives to do nothing but “feel the feels” in silence.

Comic by Cyanide & Happiness
Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

As all kinds of comments started shrieking the posts on Rob’s page expressing their conscience of finding the funny in everything, a lot of them seem to have overlooked an important message in this.

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There is no doubt in the appreciation of Rob’s creation because there is no concealed joke or an ending punchline in any of these comics as they steadily put what happened in these poor people’s  lives and speaks of the justice he has done to the title.

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Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

But along the lines of understandable comments like “This isn’t funny anymore” or finding-the-funny ones like “This is why you don’t lie to kids, they take things quite literally.”, people let slide the positively attached encryption.

Comic by Cyanide & Happiness
Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

Rob’s comics are able to let us peek into the blanketed heads of people who tediously struggle everyday with their lives breathing along with their demised aspirations and rotten thoughts.  How it happened is a question of the past, but the truth is that it HAS HAPPENED and it sucks on a medical level.

Depression being one of the most stigmatized of medical conditions is hardly given any chance of discussion in social circles and when it falls into the hands of comedians, there are very few who have been able to correctly illustrate it without letting it slip into the dark well of absolute ableism.

Louie Ck is another one who does it beautifully in his observational sitcom Louie, that embraces the loud discomfort of being in a stressed state and delineates the most poetic expression of awkwardness.

Comedian Louie ck in 'Louie'
Comedian Louis ck in ‘Louie’

“It never stopped getting worse. I remember thinking, ‘This is too much for me to handle. I wanted to give up. I knew it was my right to. But then a few minutes would go by and I’d realize, I’m still here. In other words, there was no escape from it. And I’d be a little disappointed at not being truly suicidal. I hated being ‘all right.'” – Louie ck

Depression and comedy is an irrefutably dangerous combination but it swifts into a useful medium when thrown in the right manner. Along with being an accurate pointer towards a serious issue, the comics also stand out when it comes to saying out loud “Not every thing is supposed to be funny” which is quite a courageous thing to do in today’s world.

More of this could be an integral chance to generate casualness in talks about depression. Another reason for this could be to multiply the mental health activism from a discussion in a goal-oriented consequential meet-up, to of a small talk between two friends sharing these comic links with each other. That’s where normalcy begins and stigma suffers. In a plight of those suffering in silence, these comics can serve as a catalyst to initiate more talking and increase casual considerations.