Monday, February 24, 2014

Gulabi Gang [dir. Nishtha jain]

Don't confuse Gulabi Gang with the upcoming Madhuri Dixit - Juhi Chawla draamebaazi film, this is a documentary feature on the eponymous 'gulabi' (pink) saree wearing group, focusing on its founder Sampat Pal and other members. Directed by Nishtha Jain, GG starts with Pal looking into the death of a young bride that was possibly murdered by her husband's family: it covers her interactions with members of the girl's and boy's households and the local police, the general resistance she faces at all ends etc. Another thread deals with the group's efforts to overthrow an exploitative village chief. We also see the GG movement running a recruitment drive in villages to increase their membership and spread (Apparently 1.5 lakh women across several hundred villages are now GG members) and putting up several of its members as contestants in local elections. While following the course of these threads, we also get an insight into Sampat Pal's life and the formation of Gulabi Gang.

Jain's coverage is gratifyingly non-jingoistic, preferring to simply document the proceedings without telling the audience what to feel. She does not unnecessarily glorify the lead players or make heavy-handed statements. Their successes and setbacks are depicted with attention and objectivity. Later in the documentary she exposes the cracks in the organization, when members with differing social views have conflicts with the group and its hierarchy. In less than 100min a good amount of ground is covered, without confusion or a rushed feeling. The film is also visually strong; Jain has a great eye towards capturing the rhythms of rural life and the shots are edited together with admirable fluidity. On the whole this is a high caliber documentary film that should be seen by people interested in India beyond the metros.

Right now the film is being screened at select PVR cinemas at limited show times. If you're interested in the film, you owe it yourself to catch it before the coming weekend by which it is likely to be out of the running, probably in favor of the Bollywood version.

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