It’s not often that you walk out of the cinemas reminiscing about the villain than the superwoman who saved the day in a film.
Gulaab Gang may just spur you in that direction. Directed by Soumik Sen, Madhuri Dixit plays Rajjo, the pink-clad feisty crusader in a rural village called Madhavpur. She can work a sickle and a sari with equal ferocity. She has zero tolerance to social or gender injustice and adopts radical, aggressive methods that bring the perpetrators (mostly men) to their knees. In an interview to a foreign journalist who asks about her violent methods of retribution, Rajjo sums up her guiding principle with: “Madam, sometimes rod is god.”
Her opponent is Sumitra Devi, the cherubic politician played by Juhi Chawla. But beneath that veneer of virtuosity is a lady who is a master manipulator. Chawla, who is known for her angelic roles, clearly revels in being mean. It’s a delight to watch her megalomaniac antics. The scene in which she extends a pink slip to a policeman who failed to greet her by bowing and touching her feet sets the tone of her personality. She evokes that love-to-loathe-her emotion in us. But the best scenes arrive when Rajjo takes on Devi. Their confrontations crackle. If Dixit can pull off evangelical dialogues with conviction and grace, then there’s Chawla who matches it with a smirk. It’s these two performers that make the drama work.
While the film is largely entertaining, I wish the director had not bowed down to the pressure of turning Gulaab Gang into a typical Bollywood masala film. There’s a song at every juncture — there’s a song about women weaving pink saris and there’s song about women celebrating the Indian festival Holi. And remember, these are women with troubled pasts and who have been denied basic rights such as education and shelter. Their merrymaking amidst such grimness is unrealistic.
What’s also unrealistic is the physical prowess of these pink-clad messiahs. Even if their burly male opponents have a gun, the women somehow emerge victorious with just batons as weapons. Rajjo’s perfectly style hair that cascades down her back in waves also remains intact despite all that roughing up. But if you can jump over such creases, then Gulaab Gang makes for a fun watch.
DID YOU KNOW?
At the end of the film, the credit roll listed out some extraordinary women who have campaigned against rape, acid attacks and violence against their gender in India. But what sticks out is that Sampat Lal, the real life activist who formed the Gulaabi Gang and who has filed a lawsuit against the film makers for not seeking permission about her life, was not mentioned.