Rohini Kejriwal writes about the uncomfortable questions and realities that Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s movie confronts and how it strengthened her resolve to live life on her own terms
I had the pleasure of watching Pink today. While the film was extremely well-made and realistic in the Indian context, it left my blood boiling. Yet I left the hall feeling incredibly empowered and confident of who I am as a woman. Not an Indian woman, not a marwari, not a virgin or non-virgin, just a woman.
This isn’t at all a film review, if that’s what the reader is expecting, but more like a much-needed release of everything about Pink that spoke to me. What scared me most throughout the film was, how despite the knowledge of justice being served at the end because Big B just had to win the case since it’s a Bollywood film at the end of the day, the fact remains that women were molested because they chose to dress how they wanted to, because they agreed to drink with a common friend’s friends, and because they allowed themselves to be themselves.
According to the facts of the film, the protagonist Meenal Arora could have very well been me. I enjoy attending concerts, not to get hit on and bought free drinks by random men at the bar, but because I love music. Not that I need to justify this to anybody, but I drink at these gigs because it liberates me from my self-conscious self and allows me to feel the rhythm and move. It’s my choice to be there at a gig instead of at a temple, or the imaginary kitchen where I’m feeding my future husband who does all the work while I sit at home and read magazines, or take care of our child that keeps the marriage together.
I drink because I like beer and whiskey, how it makes me feel, how light and happy and entertaining it makes me in the right company. My friends know me to be a happy drunk, but in control of things, and if I’m not, they are there to look after me. If I do drink with a stranger, it’s not without precautions or a background check or strange intentions. I am a 25-year-old woman with a strong personality and enough sense to know good from bad. So the bad apples stay in the bad pile, and I give the good apples a chance, if I want to. There is no sense of obligation or desperation or any of that because I know what I want, and it’s my prerogative to take the course of action that I choose. I use Tinder sparingly but when I do, I go out on a date, allow myself a good time, when and if I want to. I can do that because it is my body, and nobody else is entitled to an opinion over it. People tend to judge because they don’t know better, don’t understand or are possibly envious of the freedom that independent Indian women have and the way they live their lives.
It’s hard to get a place of your own if you’re a single woman, your morality is questioned, and if you’re doing anything out of the ordinary, you have a questionable character. Yet I feel the need to reiterate that even judgment, as harsh as it may be, does not give anybody the right to act against the other’s consent. The film left me feeling sick, and I was shocked at the lack of discretion to show what really happened at the party in the final credits, where the audience gladly watched the turn of events that led to a woman getting molested in the end credits before resorting to self defense in the only way she saw, as a means of exiting the uncomfortable, unwanted situation she was in—by smashing a bottle on the perpetrator’s head.
Good on you, Minal Arora, but I wish the world did not have to see that.
Violence begets violence, and it was horrifying to see the keenness with which a packed crowd of men and women watched as this assault to save one’s dignity unfolded. These are the same people who should have been de-conditioned by society’s hold by the end of the film, and left questioning why society projects and perceives women in a certain light, and maybe even discussing the blatant differences in treatment and expectations that comes with being of the ‘fairer sex’. Having said that, I grant that the director had a different impact in mind when he decided to let the truth play out in the end credits in a certain way, even if I beg to differ.
But it’s a shame that the people who really need to watch this film and know that No means No, regardless of who says it, may never get a chance to see Pink, or value it for the stand it is trying to make. Or the fact that the percentage of people who may actually read this article is too miniscule, perhaps, to matter.
The Internet itself, where this article is being shared, is as scary a place as the real world is. The people you meet on Tinder can be psychopaths, and unless you train yourself to be a good judge of human character, you could be in for trouble. I’ve had a terrible experience with a man named Jai Karia from Pune, who used my name and identity on some gaming site called Garena, apparently morphed his voice into a girl’s using a software to try and chat up creepy men on Skype, and when I finally hunted him down and threatened him, he changed his username and other technical things and got away with it. Cyber crime is as terrifying as physical violation, and the laws and lines on the Internet are usually too skewed and blurry to take any real action.
Coming back to the film, what left me intrigued the most was how Pink would now dictate the way I lived my life, because by no means could I un-see and un-feel what it had stirred in me. Would I stop taking solo trips as I had to Dharamsala for six amazing weeks where I discovered myself as a human being simply because men in India, can be feudal beings who still believe that they can get away with cat calling or rape? Would I now indiscriminately use my pepper spray and Swiss Army knife that accompany me everywhere every time a man came within 3 feet distance from me after dark? Would I entirely dismiss the grand plan I had been harbouring to get my own little studio apartment in a quiet lane, starting my life over, and surviving contently on my own? Or would I just submit to the ways of the world and accept that this is a dangerous world for a woman to be living alone, and that the outdated approach that society takes to settling down (which works for some, just not me) would be the way forward?
For now, I think I’ll just push my luck, be who I am, swear, drink, smoke, fuck, and live an interesting life for myself and nobody else by my own terms. All you shitheads who can’t deal with that can go fuck yourselves. Also, for all you strong women out there, here’s some solid advice on living alone from a 1936 Guide for Single Women. Don’t let them get to you. We’re all in this together.
As Amitabh Bachchan says in the powerful poem at the end of the film, “Tu Aarati Ki Lou Nahi, Tu Krod Ki Mashal Hai” (You are not like a small light from the wick, You are the torch of anger)