By Roni Roseberg
Although the colour pink seems to be associated with girls’ and women’s clothes, the title of the 2016 film “Pink,” on Netflix, says little about the subject matter — social attitudes toward sexual assault on women. Nor does the title hint at how well the movie handles the subject.
Filmed in India, the movie examines ingrained sexist attitudes toward women, the tendency to blame the victim, corruption among officials, favouritism toward the rich, and the problem of poorly trained police —all universal themes.
Following its release, the timely film got favourable reviews in India, and the acting is commendable.
In this film, which could easily have been based on a real case, a woman fights off and seriously injures her attacker before a rape occurs, though he manages to force himself on her against her will. Her “crime”? Living with two other female roommates instead of extended family, going to a party with her roommates, and making friends with men who mistake the young women’s desire to socialise as a sexual invitation.
The three young women are then wrongly accused of prostitution, of “provoking their hosts”, and being generally immoral against the backdrop of India’s longstanding traditions.
India, like so many countries, is undergoing major cultural changes. Some traditions are fading, abetted by women who want social equality. This is accentuated by tremendous internal diversity as a nation, a caste system, ethnic and regional differences, city vs. country divides, nepotism, and the like. British laws left in place from the colonial period do not help of course.
Still, there are many, particularly men, who stand to lose their king-of-the-castle status if uppity women want to go to college, have jobs, and do not submit to the old idea that men have the right to demand sex when they want it, and use violence and intimidation to get it.
A beautiful character emerges to help the three roommates. He is a cynical, retired lawyer who left the legal system in disgust. He is taciturn and crusty. He does not want to take the case, but cannot help himself, and relents despite internal conflicts, in order to defend the accused in what he knows to be a corrupt situation. He starts off weak and out of form, and makes you wonder if he has a strategy, but inspired by his experienced nose for the truth, he grows stronger and more effective.
The lawyer’s stand is all the more poignant as his wife battles a serious illness. The contrast of his advanced age makes it clearer yet that the well-to-do young men accused of assault have not caught up with society’s current views on women’s rights because it benefits them not to, though the senior lawyer ironically has, despite his age.
There are some signs of hope. There are a few policewomen in the film, though one falls victim to corruption, and the three female roommates manage to stay together, despite some missteps, family doubts, and violent intimidation by their attacker. The courtroom judge, very fortunately, weighs testimony in a reasonable manner.
Among the most irritating jabs are the entitled attitudes of the rich boys, the blithe but sexist attitudes of the police, and the constant reign of outrageous assumptions over evidence in the case. However, the film is supposed to irritate us. It is a use of art to make the viewer question social norms, fairness, basic human rights, and the meaning of the word “NO” in human relations.
“Pink” therefore cannot help but leave viewers pushed to change at a time when we need change.
Feature image: Rashmi Sharma Telefilms Limited