Movie Review: Gulaab Gang

I was positively biased towards Gulaab Gang for several reasons: firstly, it was about women, and hopefully them kicking some serious ass. Second, it has vigilante justice. Although my adult (and more logical) brain knows that vigilante justice is a terrible thing, the child in me wants bad people to get their asses handed to them in a kangaroo court. And finally, the movie has Madhuri Dixit. That’s all I am prepared to say about that.

Story: Rajjo (Madhuri Dixit) heads a women’s collective, known as Gulaab Gang. They take in downtrodden women, who have experienced abuse and neglect at the hands of the families or in-laws. The women’s trademark look are their bright pink saris which they weave themselves. The collective teaches young girls to read and write, to wield weapons, and in general strengths them in body and mind.

This relative idyll is threatened by a politician, Sumitra Devi (Juhi Chawla). She antagonises Rajjo a few times, even though Rajjo initially was pleased to see a woman running for office. In retaliation, she runs for the office herself, gaining support from the women and the neighbours in the village. Sumitra is obviously very peeved, and starts a campaign of war, striking at Rajjo’s trusted lieutenants.

Will corruption or progression win?

Review: I had very high hopes for Gulaab Gang, and to a certain extent these were fulfilled.

Story: The story was typically what one would expect of a premise like this one. There were establishment episodes of young women being forced out of home due to dowry harassment, the gory rape of a little girl, and so on. There was swift retribution and the righting of many wrongs in dramatic, pink-sari-and-violence-filled scenes. And so, Rajjo’s world continued on its tumultuous, yet predictable, path.

Sumitra Devi’s part of the story is more cunningly wrought. There are machinations shown onscreen that are worthy of the grittiest political drama one can imagine.

Characters: Rajjo is central to the movie, and thus has the most thoroughly fleshed out character. Her trajectory from being to end is consistent and interesting in its growth. Her seconds-in-command however are very interesting, but sadly have no back stories. In there were, and I missed it, it was because of being casually tossed into dialogue. They ended up being so much scenery.

The real tragedy was that Sumitra’s character wasn’t given more screen time. The character is beautiful (because Juhi Chawla is gorgeous) and she smiles so prettily, but she is hard as nails. There is so much coldness and calculation in her moves and decisions that she would give the ice queen a run for her money.

Acting: Madhuri Dixit is amazing as Rajjo, but Juhi Chawla was masterful. She stole every scene, because she was so incredible and convincing. I was utterly transfixed by her portrayal.

What I liked: The story was interesting, and the continuous escalation led nicely up to the explosive finale. The art direction was incredible too, with stunning locales and interesting camera choices. Of course the acting was superb.

What I disliked: The movie dragged on for quite a while. I found that I needed a break from the bleakness at times. I also didn’t quite like the deaths as they happened, although I see that they were necessary.

Rating: ✩✩✩

Possibly an eye-opener for some on the plight of women in rural India. For me, another sad reminder of how far we have to go. Might well watch again.

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