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Hindi Documentary Film Review
Film Review: Gulabi Gang: Social re-engineering
Cast: Sampat pal Devi, Ram Dulari, Devrati, Husna, Kusum
Director: Nishta Jain
Rating: * * * ½
This is a stirring documentary on the pink brigade(Gulabi Gang) led by gender revolutionary Sampat Pal, striving to empower the poor and hapless women of Bundelkhand region against the oppressive and violent patriarchal mindset.
The film documents a revolution in the making among the poorest of the poor, as the fiery women of the Gulabi Gang empower themselves and take up the fight against gender violence, caste oppression and widespread corruption. The movement started way back in 2006, when Pal began a women's collective that took the law into its own hands. It came to be known as Gulabi Gang because all the members wore pink saris and carried pink lathis.
This subject is certainly not new to documentary- Kim Loginotto was the first to go there with her ‘Pink Saris’ and there are others too in the making, including a fiction feature starring Madhuri Dixit Nene and Juhi Chawla as the two central antagonists. But those efforts don’t take anything away from Nishta’s sterling work. The uneducated widow, Sampat Pal in Nishta’s film, is strong and secure in the knowledge that people in power fear her. She knows how to negotiate her way through an intensely conservative people - with a measured assurance that would even put a highly educated diplomat to shame. And why not? The women of the region have begun to depend on her and she is willing enough to go the distance to help them regain their rights.
But it’s not always smooth-sailing, Sampat Pal is called on to negotiate for justice on a brutal murder masked as suicide , within her own family and at another point in the film she has to deal with a member of her own brigade, Husna, who has turned hostile following another incident of brutality within her (Husna’s)family. The camera dutifully follows Sampat Pal right through her investigation-from her visit to the victim’s home, her conversations with the neighbours, her frank and fearless opinions on the event, her debunking of the Police who are unwilling to file a case for want of a complaint and to her calling on the dead woman’s family, urging them to come forward with a complaint that they are loath to make(for reasons of insecurity). It’s a rough and tiring ride but Sampat Pal is indefatigable in her efforts to right the wrongs of society. At 97 minutes the film is powerful, engrossing and completely captivating. And it’s all because the central character is so completely assured of her ability to get women to become more proactive in their own defense. It’s inspiring and truthful and even manages to question Sampat Pal’s own beliefs on testy matters that involve her family members. Sampat pal of course, comes out smelling like roses.. and why not? She is after all the queen of the Pink Brigade!