Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

Angry Indian Goddesses
Director: Pan Nalin
Writer: Pan Nalin, Subhadra MahajanDilip ShankarArsala Qureishi
Cast: Sarah-Jane DiasRajshri DeshpandeSandhya MridulAmrit MagheraPavleen GujralAnushka ManchandaTannishtha Chatterjee
Seen on: 19.6.2016

Plot:
Photographer Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias) has invited her closest friends to her home in Goa, where she lives with her housekeeper Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande). There’s Su (Sandhya Mridul) who lives for her career and arrives with her daughter who she raises alone. There’s Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who turns out to be an activist causing Su’s business quite a bit of trouble. There’s Jo (Amrit Maghera) who dreams of making it big as an actress but struggles with her roles and her British accent. There’s Pammy (Pavleen Gujral) who seems to love being a housewife. And finally, there’s Mad (Anushka Manchanda), a musician who likes living wild. They don’t know why Frieda has invited them, but take full advantage to catch up with each other and their lives.

Angry Indian Goddesses tries to cram pretty much the entirety of the feminist debate in India into one film – and still be funny, at least most of the time. That is a large order to fill and it works surprisingly well.

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We meet the women one by one before they really come together and it did take me a bit until I had them properly straight in my head, despite the fact that they are very different characters. But that is pretty much the only structural complaint I have about the film – and I’m not even sure they could have solved it more elegantly anyhow. In any case it’s beautifully done how the film takes its time to flesh out the characters and slowly move them from what seem stereotypes at first into more fully rounded personalities with their contradictions, though admittedly in some cases this works better than in others.

It was simply a joy to watch these women interact with each other and having lively discussions, not only about themselves and their lives, but also about all kinds of feminist issues (it seems that most of these discussions were improvised by the actresses). This combination of showing and living feminist issues and talking about them in the film works extremely well. Under the aspect of intersectionality, I would have liked it if Lakshmi’s role had been explored more (though her difference in status is not ignored) and if maybe not all of these women had been conventionally beautiful. But then again, as I said, they are already attempting to fit so much into the film, it seems almost unfair to ask for me.

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Despite of the partly rather harsh issues, the film avoids too much of a serious tone for the longest time. Even when things get emotional, more often than not a joke follows right on the heels of those moments. That is, until the very end, when the film suddenly suckerpunches you. I would have probably lived more easily without that punch, but it was important to feature it. Especially because it shows that what feminists are fighting for really is a matter of life and death and not just some fancy.

Although it does feel like a film made for a Western audience, which seems a bit like a missed opportunity, with the more than charming cast and the excellent pacing, the film moves along swiftly and is definitely thought-provoking. Plus, it has this song.

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Summarizing: Definitely worth seeing.

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