In Bundelkhand, India, a revolution is in the making among the poorest of the poor, as the fiery women of the Gulabi Gang empower themselves and take up the fight against gender violence, caste oppression and widespread corruption.
Bundelkhand in central India, a region notorious for its rebels-turned-armed bandits, is witnessing a new kind of rebellion with an unusual cast of characters. These are the pink sari-clad women of the Gulabi Gang, who use words as weapons - demanding their rights, submitting petitions and haranguing corrupt officials. They travel long distances by cart and tractor, bus and train, to wrest justice for women and dalits, undeterred by sneering policemen and condescending bureaucrats. Sampat Pal, the group's founder, is a rough-and-tough woman with a commanding personality. Despite being born into a traditional family and married off early, she has evolved her own brand of feminism and egalitarian politics. Constantly on the move, today she may be found investigating the suspicious death of a young woman, tomorrow protesting against a corrupt official. The Gulabi Gang, with a membership of thousands, is active across many districts. Suman Singh, one of the leaders, has made it her ... Written by
An important documentation of a brave movement but honestly less than expectations.
The iron lady Sampat Pal, first made an appearance in the infamous reality show BIGG BOSS, yet her exact work and motive remained unclear to many until another news came that a film is being made on Sampat Pal and her 'Gulabi Gang' featuring Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla in the lead. The phrase indicating towards hundreds of women wearing Pink sarees with sticks in hands got some instant fame and now just before this Bollywood project we get to see an inspiring documentary titled "Gulabi Gang" released with a perfect timing.
However, it remains the second documentary made on the subject after British documentarian Kim Longinotto came with her 96 minutes version called "Pink Saris" in 2010. But the fact doesn't take away anything from the honest attempt made by the director Nishtha Jain in her Indian take on the theme and the film rightly won few deserving awards in the recent film festivals too. Taking the viewer into the Northern India interiors of Bundelkhand (Uttar Pradesh) it actually opens on a lighter note wherein all the village ladies dressed in pink sarees are trying to learn the defense, fighting with lathis (strong, long sticks). Later it is told that the group was founded by Sampat Pal in the year 2006 as her fight to get the justice served to the victims.
The first long sequence of a so called kitchen accident killing a recently married girl pulls the viewers in and the stage is set to see something highly moving, shocking and disturbing too. But honestly I found the film quite less than the expected and it didn't come out to be that impressive or hard hitting as I was assuming.
Stating its worth mentioning bright points, the film once again makes you ashamed of the "Man Ruled" society in our rural areas, where a women is still treated as a means of cooking food, looking after your home, taking care of your kids and giving you the bodily pleasure at nights without thinking anything else beyond these four things. It shows you the exact way how most of the villagers are simply used to such brutal rapes, killings and physical torture of their own women like nothing new happening in their daily lives. Further it also boldly reveals how the corrupt politicians and local government officials truly rule over these people like the regional autocratic kings owning them all. To provide some relief moments. the director rightly incorporates the element of humor in few early sequences of this otherwise tense documentary. And then she also balances the script showcasing the rebels of the 'Gulabi Gang' too in its concluding half an hour.
In fact the inclusion of this long interview of a revolting lady clearly indicates that most of the times, a woman herself takes this suffering in the name of tradition or fate, which eventually doesn't let her break the ugly vicious circle of suppression as desired. And probably this remains the basic reason, that despite having a 'Gulabi Gang' operational in their own region, the people still vote for the corrupt politician and deliberately choose to be on the suffering end willfully.
Therefore, watching the film you not only feel helpless and annoyed but also have a great amount of admiration and respect for their fiery leader Sampat Pal fighting for them with an honest & focused vision. The documentary does make you emotional in its few scenes but questionably doesn't bring in this essential element often in its less than two hours of narration.
Mentioning its weaker points, I somehow couldn't get the way it was conceived by the director as a documentary. Because most of the times, its scenes looked like all staged or explained in advance to the participants before commencing the shoot. In other words, Sampat Pal always looked like doing it for the camera in a deliberate mode and after so much media attention; it seems that the lady has fast learned how to play with the lens like a professional actor. Also, the execution raised a major doubt that would she behave exactly in the same manner when there is no camera or crew around?
Secondly, though the film keeps the viewer engaged with some interesting case investigations by the group leaders but it actually doesn't reveal the outcome of the same.
Thirdly, when you are watching an intense documentary called "Gulaabi Gang" then the most obvious question coming to your mind is that "Why the colour Pink or Gulaabi?". But sadly there is no answer to this query in Nishtha's thoughtful attempt, which should have been there like the first requisite of such a project, ideally.
Anyway, though Nishtha Jain's GULAABI GANG has its own technical shortcomings. But still it rises much above the usual pattern of uninteresting documentaries and brings forward a sick, embarrassing and ages old truth of our traditional system, for which a lady alone is fighting wearing a Pink Saree.
Ending on an introspective note, in the last scene of the film, a passerby on the railway station asks one of the members of "Gulaabi Gang" waiting for their train to come that, "Do you get anything from all this in return?". The less educated member nods in negative but I would personally like to give an answer to the worldly question that, "The most important things in this world are available to you free of cost and the most important tasks in a life also have to be done without asking anything in return.....!"
In all, as a gesture of respect towards this remarkable woman Sampat Pal, the documentary deserves to be seen in the theaters and Nishtha Jain's soulful attempt also needs to be applauded by 'we the viewers' unanimously. More so because, we would like to see the documentaries on our own people to be made by our Indian film-makers only and not the foreigners!
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