Last week I happened to watch two movies which can be loosely categorized as courtroom dramas. Both movies had strong backing!
While ‘Pink’ was backed by Shoojit Sircar and Amitabh Bachchan; ‘Wrong Side Raju’ (WSR) was backed by Phantom (Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl) and Cineman (Abhishek Jain, Mikhil Musale).
Both movies had another thing in common – promising ‘directors’.
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury – I had high hopes from him after ‘Antaheen’.
Mikhil Musale – As a man who brought Phantom to Gujarat solely on the basis of narrations, the script and the support team had to be powerful.
Coming to the point – after watching ‘Wrong Side Raju’, I was not able to understand how I felt about the movie. This feeling hung on for quite some time. As humans, we are programmed to make choices between good or bad.
When people ask you ‘how was the movie’, they expect you to answer with good or bad. I wasn’t able to come to terms with this question for WSR till I happened to watch ‘Pink’. Ironic much?
For ‘Pink’, I was convinced about the answer even before the movie ended. No means no…lol
I was irritated in the first half expecting some serious story in the second half. But more than being disappointed, I was outraged in the second half as the same point was repeated again & again with power-packed PR dialogues with the age old formula of courtroom intimidation. I found the movie rhetoric as a conniving, shameless and formulaic way to capitalize on the current trends of rising feminism & women empowerment.
However, there was one good thing that came out of the movie. It allowed my mind a lot more clarity for ‘Wrong Side Raju’. As soon as the movie was over, I started comparing the two recently watched movies on so many different levels.
Characters & Acting
The characters in the movie Pink did not have any other shades. The boys were all bad and the girls were all good. How convenient it is to have one-dimensional characters! Too much of crying, stuttering, shouting and emotional bursts in the movie to handle. There were characters like Andrea who had nothing to emote and the movie would’ve been the same without her. Then there were characters like the owner of the house who despite having genuine concern for the girls just disappears when the trial begins. Amitabh exists in the movie not to fight the case but to educate the country one more time before calling it off. Did he really have bipolar disorder?
Acting is not bad. But whatever good acting the characters pull off is overshadowed by the huge blunders in the script.
On the other side, WSR had really vibrant characters with various shades. They go through different emotions – they laugh, cry, dance and play smart in the courtroom most of all. The characters get caught up in a horrific accident and the movie unfolds as they deal with their loss and grief amidst police inquiries and court hearings. The movie adopts a macro look by showing four different narrations of the story from the perspectives of the victim, the accused, the witness and the lawyer. As the movie unfurls, you are caught up between the victim & the accused, the good & the bad, the white & the black, the wrong & the right!
Acting wise, Pratik Gandhi, is a stand out performer. It totally feels that he is living the character. Asif Basra though looked out of place with that weird accent – surely not the accent of someone named Amitabh Shah.
Music & Lyrics
Do you even remember any song from Pink? There was only one I think which was offensively sad and misplaced. The song comes when you’re just a few minutes into the movie and you cannot even relate with the plight of those poor girls crying and whining through and through. The lyrics are just like the movie – very generic and almost non-relevant. Very ordinary efforts were put into the background music as well – it went from being non-existent to lost in the yelling to the background sound of thundering & rain when a sad scene is going on! Really?
For WSR, it’s just not possible that you don’t remember the melodious tunes of ‘Satrangi Re’ by Arijit Singh and ‘Zindabad’ by Vishal Dadlani. The ‘Amdavad’ song and music video that they released later was rave, raw and a rare spectacle of Gujarati music industry. The video showcases all the flavors, seasons, festivals, architectures and attractions of Ahmedabad. And the lyrics correctly explain all the moods of the city and its citizens, blending in so very well with the visuals. The background music is a major take away from this movie and it indeed seems to have been a major consideration of the post-production team, unlike Pink!
Script & Writing
For Pink, it all started with the end product. The writer Ritesh Shah weaved a story around it somehow but forgot to pay any attention to facts and practicalities involving a legal case. The consequence was a story full of plot-holes. I will discuss these plot-holes later in the article.
The writer was probably so much misguided with melodrama that he could hardly focus or even understand what he was dealing with!
For WSR, the script is not the tidiest offering of the movie. The movie digresses in parts and does not do justice to all the relationships – especially the relationship of Shaily & Tanmay seems very superficial. Whenever they share the screen together, the narration loses hold, the dialogues sound phony and they look uncertain of what they’re supposed to do or how they’re supposed to behave with each other. Apart from this little missed detailing, the script is fast and multi-layered especially in the second half. There are surprises in store and suspense in offering. After going through the layers of truth from different perspectives, the real truth at the end is still something that you did not expect.
In short, there is story, there is thrill and there is substance. All three are missing in Pink.
This is my biggest disappointment with Pink. I went to the theatre preparing myself to like the movie. But it disappointed me at so many levels. In the second half, with the courtroom scenes, it all came down. Senior Bachchan goes all preachy to make the court sequences look highly contrived and unrealistic.
We are teleported to an era where judgments in the court are passed based on emotions & melodrama rather than facts. Many of the facts earlier established in the movie are foolishly or thoughtlessly ignored. Here are some examples:
- Minal (Tapsee Pannu) was kidnapped once. Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan) was a witness. Why was this never brought up during the trial? Deepak Sehgal had even called the police control room and all the calls to the PCR are recorded and can be used as evidence during a trial.
- The owner of the house where the three girls live seemed to be very supportive in the first half. However, he mysteriously vanished in the second half. He was a victim too who received threat calls and was hurt in a plotted accident. He was also a witness who visited Minal at the time when she was supposedly absconding as per the police.
It was an open & shut case for the judge if these two details were not irrationally ignored.
- Piyush Mishra intimidates Kirti Kulhari (Falak Ali) and she accepts of being a prostitute. Well if she is accused of having taken money from the boys, can she not ask them to prove that first? This is when the story started to take random turns dictated by sensationalism. Later Amitabh Bachchan intimidates Angad Bedi (Rajveer Singh) and then he senselessly intimidates his own client Tapsee Pannu (Minal) randomly digressing towards some more shock tactics by openly (but pointlessly) asking her about virginity and the boys she has slept with. Well, are we still in the age where court cases are solved by intimidation over facts and judgments are carried out by emotions over practicalities? On a second thought, can we expect any better from Bollywood?
From Gollywood, it surely seems you can. WSR offers no melodrama in the court sequences. The case hearing proceeds on the basis of facts and the judgment that is passed seems like an informed decision rather than a carried-away decision. Most importantly, the characters are smart. They come to the court well informed, well prepared and with an end purpose. This is not the case at all in Pink.
No story means no story! That’s it.
Pink had no story in the first place and hence there was no case. The case was already solved. Just to drag till all the power packed PR dialogues had been delivered, important elements of the story were conveniently ignored. The judgment and the ending of the movie were also very convenient. But not convincing at all. When Bachchan was given the last chance to speak before the judgment, being portrayed as one of the most senior lawyers of the country, he still did not talk facts. He continued with his never-ending rant which had by now started to sound like empty moralizing from a pseudo-Socratic. The ‘No means No’ monologue was actually a ‘shoving consent down your throat’ monologue and not even remotely close to being called a courtroom argument. And where did the husband-wife consent even come into consideration? Didn’t they just overdo it all? And on what basis did the judge finally give the verdict? A well-narrated emotionally stirring speech?
“Being from north east, I face more difficulties on the street than an average girl…” or what was that dialogue? What does this dialogue even have to do with the story? Well, while we’re capitalizing on all the sensational issues, let us also conveniently (but shamelessly) exploit this one! Look, it’s trending!
The movie rides high on recreating the brute realities of patriarchy and shows it shamelessly without an iota of logic. It digresses completely towards becoming a moral science lecture on consent and women’s choices. It breaks my heart to see everyone around me go crazy for such a movie! But thinking about it again, the movie has everything to please the average viewer. For intelligent viewers, this is just a 10 minute story stretched into a forceful movie of 2 hours.
The movie no doubt supported a noble cause. But it was all misguided even in terms of psychology.
The male-female relationship since time immemorial has nurtured & sustained extreme & contradictory emotions of love & hate, fear & hope, grief & pride, lust & anger. Feelings such as self-esteem, safety, individuality and respect also play an important part in defining the relation.
Only emotional imbalance or total avoidance of the feelings as mentioned above can give rise to violent aftermaths as shown in the movie. The movie achieved hype nonetheless. But it could’ve better achieved its cause if it delved in the nuances of emotions & feelings that lead to violent repercussions. It would’ve required a much better director to do justice to the cause. What both genders need to understand is how the male-female subconscious psychological drives work. And both genders need to understand this – not one. Instead, the movie was all a showdown for the males – as the targeted gender represented mostly by evil souls in the form of forceful, guiltless, foolish, rich, well-connected brats! Generalizing with a very small sample size! Yes, I think they overdid it, totally.
And when you do not wish to toil hard on the story part, you find the easy pickings. In this movie, the easy pickings came from the third-wave feminism. And the movie rides on just feminism without delving deeper into the darker regions of the human psyche.
Anyway, here is my verdict in a sentence for both courtroom dramas:
Pink: A courtroom melodrama that can be best described as a waste of your time. THIS MOVIE CAN STRICTLY NOT BE CATEGORISED AS A THRILLER. There should be a special genre created for this – FREE KA GYAAN, neo-EKTA KAPOOR STYLE!
“Shout, intimidate, provoke and your case is solved.” It’s so easy, Indian Judiciary!
Wrong Side Raju: A movie that can be best described as the pioneer of a new genre in Gujarati Cinema. A movie that deservingly celebrates the association of Gujarati Cinema with its bigger counterpart. Though not fully ripe, we can indeed expect great leaps & strides from Mikhil Musale & Cineman in the times to come.
Let’s cherish this video song for now. There’s so much beauty & radiance in the visuals, music and lyrics.