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The Sky Is Pink, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar, a biopic about Aisha Chaudhary and her family, is a story about family, love, and the importance of working together through grief.
There are a few moments of oppressive silence in The Sky Is Pink, when we know that Aisha Chaudhary, played by Zaira Wasim, has died. Just as we are absorbing that, a sharp, high note heralds fast paced, celebratory music, like one may hear at a dance party. The visual that comes with this music though, is of Aisha lying in her coffin. We are at her funeral, and Aisha notes in the voiceover, how among a sea of mourners dressed in white, her mother (played by Priyanka Chopra), is the only one dressed colourfully, as if she were at a birthday party. The look on Priyanka’s face as she performs the funeral rites is of a stoic determination; as if that determination alone will somehow bring her daughter back.
It is not this emotion that the movie opens with however. It starts at a moment in time much after Aisha’s death, when a sleepless Aditi (Priyanka), haunts her daughter’s bedroom, as a resigned Niren (Farhan Akhtar) watches on. The sense of loss and isolation that the both of them experience as they deal with their grief separately is palpable.
Aisha’s journey and her struggle with SCID and pulmonary fibrosis are public knowledge. As the voiceover says in the beginning, that doesn’t mean there is no suspense in the movie.
Having watched it (in an empty theatre with just me and my husband in it, which is a really sad commentary on the Indian movie-goers who I had hoped would be more discerning, but with the masala movie War playing at the same time…), I would say that suspense is not the right word. The movie doesn’t thrill, or “entertain” in anyway. It is raw and stark. It puts your emotions through the wringer and by the end my husband and I were glad that we were alone in the theatre as we ugly cried through it all (and again on the way back home). Not that the film tries to make you cry. It isn’t mining melodrama. It just has been written so well, and shot with such honesty, that one cannot help but deeply empathize with this family’s truth.
So no suspense. But an experience that is one of a kind. In an age where biopics are masalafied propaganda, this is the ‘realest’ thing I have seen in a long time.
Yet, the moments that truly stick with the viewer are not the ones that depict sorrow or grief. They are the ones that show life, love and kindness. As the real life Aditi Chaudhary says in this interview – “Seize the moment.”
Be it the moment that Niren hears from a radio show host that listeners have donated more money than he needs for his daughter’s treatment; the moment when the family snorkels together on a “emergency holiday”; or the moment when Aditi manages to procure a copy of Aisha’s book before its launch, so her dying daughter can hold it before she passes.
To tell the story, the movie abandons a linear timeline in favour of a story that moves suddenly from present to past to future. The effect of this is surreal as the viewer is jarred out of one emotion into another, perhaps in reflection of how a person dealing with grief can sometimes feel ALL emotions at once.
While this may be confusing to viewers used to linear storytelling, I found it to be a masterstroke.
The acting is top notch. Priyanka Chopra looks too put together to convincingly portray a grieving Aditi at times, but she gives her best, and in any case the script is powerful enough to keep us invested. Farhan Akhtar is much more convincing as a man struggling to hold things together for the sake of his daughter. He shines in the scenes that portray the conflict between the couple as they try to fit into each other’s lives again after Aisha’s death. Rohit Saraf as Ishaan, Aisha’s brother, puts up a wonderfully restrained performance as a teenager forced to mature too soon as his parents become increasingly focused on his sister.
It is Zaira Wasim as Aisha who owns the film though. It is truly our loss that this talented young woman has chosen to quit acting. She “lives” Aisha completely –bringing us all her joys and sorrows with her powerful but calming screen presence.
The screen next to ours while we were watching this move was playing War, and the loudness of the audio of that film kept intruding into ours. I’m sure there were no empty seats in that screening. It is all too natural to want to escape into something over-the-top and entertaining as War. The Sky Is Pink however, is a much more human experience. A reminder of what is real, and what truly matters. I truly wish more people would go see this wonderful movie.
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