Angry Indian Goddesses: Movie Review

Posted: December 7, 2015

Here is the much awaited detailed review of ‘Angry Indian Goddesses.’  A film that has its intent and heart, both at the right place- writes our reviewer Saumya Baijal.

I remember watching the trailer a month ago, which left me liberated in its first glance. As a woman activist, with brave women friends, this seemed as close as it could get, to our real world. As one who has keenly followed commercial cinema, my belief in filmdom began to get restored, as I saw a film that was willing to celebrate, embrace and applaud the raw power of fearless women without the trappings of stars and commercialism of songs.

What makes Angry Indian Goddesses special? The way the dichotomies and hypocrisy, that women in India are forced to live with everyday, are felt, questioned and condemned. No matter who we are, where we are, irrespective of what our social, political or financial standing may be, the fact that our gender is the first reason that is sought, to seal our fate in a society that refuses to even acknowledge us as equals. The wrath is palpable. At the injustice of this brazen truth. All seven protagonists embody and exemplify the angst with each of the problems that their respective characters straddle.




The opening sequence when each character gets introduced, defying sexisms and expectancies, sets the tone of the film. What unites each of the characters, the photographer, the musician, the corporate honcho, the budding actress, the activist, the fiery help and the rich wife, is their sheer permeability, grit, and refusal to accept what others write for them. They are brave, raw and feisty. And human. They accept their own weaknesses, and are only bolstered by each other’s struggles and faith. They celebrate each other’s trust. And seek power to hold their own, from it.

The first half of the film sucks us into this camaraderie. Set in a relaxed, almost reluctant-to-wake-up Goa, we are introduced to the various characters, their eccentricities, their vulnerabilities, and their strengths. Their confidence in themselves to walk away from what troubled them and make something of their lives. The others, realizing they did have the ability to exercise their choice. And write the stories of their lives as they see fit. The second half succumbs to the pressure of answering questions introduced in the first half. Shot in a hand-held way, the film captures intimacies, moments and freedom. You get involved in a way that you feel like responding to catcalls, and jeers yourself from the audience seat. Close angles, unpretentious make-up, and the feeling of no sets, sets the film into a comfort of home. This coupled with stupendous actors makes a compelling film, with which you react, cry and applaud. Sharp editing, crisp intercuts with different stories, combinations of conversations with different characters keeps the film energetic.

The film does not mute the violence we face. Neither does it try to romance it or justify it. It tells it as it is. And therein lies its strength. To let the viewer grasp the immense injustice of it all. The issues are those that we feel, sense everyday. Women leered, jeered and lusted at. Women obscenely scrutinized, brutally scavenged. Women questioned, scoffed and peered at. Women judged. For our clothes, our choices, for our speech, for our volumes, for our tones, for our strength, for our will to bring down the demons who demean us, for being just as ruthless- as the world is with us. Kaali is back, waiting to restore order. Rajshri Deshpande and Sandhya Mridul are superlative. They are fiery, feisty, angry yet vulnerable, sad and human. At either ends of the financial spectrum, they are united by the heady sense of power. Of anger that consumes your senses, of not waiting for someone else to fight your battle. You fight and weep and smile and dance with Su and Lakshmi. Adil Hussain is believable. Scoffing and judgmental, embodying patriarchy in every way.

But despite the promise with which the film starts, and the reveling moments that come in through the narrative, the film does turn over simplistic. Complex issues are touched upon in conversations and brushed aside, personal biases become reasons for larger decisions. The film falls prey to stereotypes it tried to defy. It tries to bring up too many issues, fleetingly mentions them, without a cohesive answer to any, and becomes a mix of several ideas, rendering it incoherent. Yet the candid, intimacy even with brutality, makes you want to forget these gaping loopholes, because it is still a film that has its intent and heart, both at the right place. In the world of Bollywood, where women gyrating to ‘gatak le mujhe alcohol se’ is mainstream, Pan Nalin needs to be applauded for his courage. The emotion that unites his characters.

The songs are contemporary, and weave in seamlessly with the storyline of the film. Each propels the story forward, and ensures that we reflect on the mood it signifies. ‘Zindagi’ is exceptionally written- that talks of the dichotomies that life erects, and the need to defy its very construct. It is the new ‘Tujhse naraaz nahin’. ‘Dil dola re’ turns sexism on its head- Bollywood style- objectifying the men! And Rajshri Deshpande’s unabashed dancing makes the song even more memorable. The censor board deprives us of the rush that we as audience would have felt, as the anger of the characters spills out on screen- by blurring Goddess Kaali and beeping most of the superlatives that are a part of our everyday conversations.

Angry Indian Goddesses embodies what we fight for. Freedom. The film could have been truly unique, had it not given into the trappings it fought hard to keep at bay. I really wish I knew how to wolf-whistle. I would totally have, at different points in the film, when women power was at its peak. Not taking bull-shit. Oh wait, Mr Pahlaj Nihalani, should that be ****-shit? Rest assured, THAT too isn’t about to happen- An Angry Indian Goddess who refuses to be censored.

Cover image via Facebook

Saumya Baijal, is a budding writer, poet and co-founder of the activist theatre group Aatish. She has been writing on films for many years, and is particularly enamoured by the films of the 1950s and 1960s in Commercial Hindi Cinema. Her writings have been published in The Equator Line, Writer's Asylum and Jankipul amongst others. She can be read on www.saumyabaijal.blogspot.com . She has been working in advertising for 9 years.

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