Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 4, 2015

Channeling Kali

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:48 pm

December 04, 2015

Cast: Sandhya Mridul, Sarah Jane-Dias, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anushka Manchanda, Pavleen Gujral, Amrit Maghera, Rajshree Deshpande, Adil Hussain, Arjun Mathur

Director: Pan Nalin

Angry Indian Goddesses contains every cliché you’d expect to see in a film that’s been billed as ‘India’s first female buddy movie’. From women getting facials together, to playing Truth or Dare…from talking frankly about sex and ogling the dishy neighbor, to polishing off a box of cupcakes…the film ticks all the boxes. Yet it seldom feels contrived, thanks to the natural performances of its ensemble, and director Pan Nalin’s non-intrusive, observational style of filming.

The women in question here are Freida (Sarah Jane-Dias), a photographer whose art often clashes with her job; Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul), a corporate shark struggling with the work-family balance; Pammi (Pavleen Gujral), a Delhi housewife whose entrepreneurial ambitions are thwarted by her husband; Mad (Anushka Manchanda), a rocker whose music isn’t selling; and half-Brit-half Indian wannabe actress Joanna (Amrit Maghera), who’s desperate to find anything more substantial than damsel-in-distress bit parts in B-movies.

The BFFs arrive at Freida’s home in Goa and quickly discover that they’ve been invited to participate in her wedding, although she won’t reveal the identity of her spouse-to-be just yet. Thrown into this mix is Laxmi (Rajshree Deshpande), Freida’s trusted maid, who’s dealing with unresolved issues of her own. The mood becomes tense temporarily with the arrival of another friend, Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee), an activist embroiled in a land dispute with Suranjana.

You can’t help but root for these women as they let their hair down, carping freely about life, complaining about the prejudices they face daily, and pointing out that women themselves are their own worst enemies. It’s easy to dismiss them as caricatures, except that their conflicts feel real and there’s a genuinely empowering quality to their frankness.

It’s true that Nalin crams the film with too many issues, but the improv approach of his leading ladies lends these scenes an element of surprise, which is refreshing. They go from cynical to angry to joyful within moments, and you’re happy to take the ride with them.

The tone shifts abruptly in the film’s final act when an incident triggers off its vigilante-motivated climax. It’s easy to see why Nalin may have chosen to articulate the film’s empowerment message, but it feels unmistakably manipulative and misguided.

Still I’m going with three out of five for Angry Indian Goddesses. Using humor and pathos, it raises pertinent questions. You’ll be happy to spend two hours in the company of these ladies.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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