In a country where cinema is mostly looked upon as an entertaining escape, documentary films are not really patronised. But hopefully times are changing as Nishtha Jain's extremely engaging documentary on the Gulabi Gang is releasing in theatres today.
Gulabi Gang is an award-winning documentary film on the remarkable life of Sampat Pal. For those uninitiated, Pal started the now famous Gulabi Gang in Uttar Pradesh. This gang, which mainly consists of women clad in pink sarees, takes on all that has been wrong with the male-dominated society in a bid to fight the injustices committed against women. Nishtha spent about four months with Sampath Pal and her gang members, as they moved from one village to another, trying to get justice done in every way possible.
Armed with a lathi each, these women, mostly barefoot, travel to places in not so great conditions, but they are egged on by the sole desire to help each other fight injustice. Pal's gang's selfless quest is captured in a raw and honest manner by Nishtha, who is clearly not looking at the issue with rose-tinted glasses of idealism. Both the pitfalls and their helplessness are highlighted as much as the glorious moments experienced by the gang.
Though the film glosses over certain crucial parts, it is a sincere attempt to highlight the bravery and guts of a woman, who took action, in spite of the extremely adverse circumstances that she was brought up in. In a world where women are burnt and killed so casually, and where complaints by a woman are not even considered by cops, it is truly amazing to see the gumption and confidence with which Pal and her gang go about their duties. Pal fights battles outside and also within the gang; the documentary also shows one of the members suddenly turning hostile when her own brother is targeted.
Gulabi Gang shows how tough it is to break down the conditioning that most of these women struggle with. Watch this documentary only if to wake up to the stark realisation that we are far removed from the real problems of rural India and that we do little to even understand them better. Also, to perhaps feel a little ashamed that in spite of the privileges that we are bestowed with, when needed, we can't even muster up an iota of courage that Pal and her pink gang has in abundance.