A film that turns us white with fear and black with horror. Blue with melancholy, green with nausea. Red with rage. The yellowness of cowardice can be found with it, as can the brown filth of corruption and moral decay. So what kind of a title is Pink?

It is well past the witching hour, and two separate groups of three women and three men flee in panic from a Delhi resort. We don’t know what has happened, but one of the young men is badly injured and may lose an eye. His companions oscillate between concern for their friend and outrage that a woman would have the gall to strike him. The girls on the other hand, look like they are shaking off disgust, but they are clearly frightened by what they have just done. As we slowly begin to piece together the events, we realize that each party may have grounds for a legal case against the other. So begins one of the tensest and most riveting dramas to have ever come out of the Hindi film industry.

I won’t discuss plot details, because much of Pink’s merit lies in the way the story unfolds. I still won’t have to worry about my word count, because the film excels in so many other ways, particularly in the acting department. The casting is perfect, with practically every member of the ensemble delivering a searing performance. Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang are marvelous as the three ‘modern and independent’ girls trapped in the quintessential Delhi nightmare. The boys hold up their end too, with Angad Bedi, Vijay Varma, Raashul Tandon and Tushar Pandey each seemingly playing a variation of the worst kind of Indian male – entitled, caddish, repressed and hypocritical. Piyush Mishra as a venomous lawyer, Vinod Nagpal as the girls’ wonderfully decent landlord and Mamta Malik as a Haryanvi cop are fantastic in supporting roles. And of course, Amitabh Bachchan, playing a retired lawyer with manic depression, strides through the film like a colossus. Whether he is slumped dully on a park bench or bellowing impassioned speeches in packed courtrooms, its impossible not to be mesmerized by the star’s towering charisma. These are characters you will remember years after you have watched the film.

Quite a few people have been touting this as a masterpiece, but to maintain the sanctity of that word, I’d be inclined to disagree. Credit to director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and writer Ritesh Shah for their wonderful work, but Pink has a few minor blemishes that would be more obvious if the cast wasn’t utterly brilliant. For example, apart from a delicious sequence where Bachchan’s character dismantles a witness with a ‘Supergirl’ monologue, much of the courtroom drama seems to proceed on emotional arguments as opposed to logical ones. The writing also veers towards the obvious – it’s very easy to pick out the four or five feminist set pieces that the movie was built around. However, much more is right with the film than wrong with it. Pink shows a confidence in its storytelling that is rare in Hindi cinema, and makes many astute decisions. We never see what actually happened on the night in question (until the end credits), and this keeps us guessing. For the most part, the film doesn’t blatantly talk to the audience, but allows us to make our own inferences. This is definitely a leap forward for our movies.

So what kind of a title is Pink? A character in the 1982 novel The Color Purple says “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” which gives us some idea of what the name of that book means. If there is a similarly colourful clue in Pink I missed it, but what the title roughly turns out to mean is this: “If you walk by the colour pink in a field somewhere, it doesn’t mean that you own the damn field.”

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

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