Unholy mess: why I cringed my way through Angry Indian Goddesses
For a movie being touted as the landmark feminist, path-breaking, revolution-ready film of our times, there are a few too many cliches in Angry Indian Goddesses and I'm not even talking about the unfortunate name.
The Successful Businesswoman is a sour-faced ill-tempered woman who has no time for her child. To bring home the point that she is a Successful Businesswoman, she screams at her team incoherently (a team entirely full of men; no other woman can make it to her boardroom, because how can she yell at women in a feminist movie?) and then, to show that she'll do what she wants without giving two f***s, she storms out of the room and starts to throw off her clothes (?) as she walks across the reception of the office and dives into a pool (?) in her two-piece swimsuit that she is wearing under her formidable suit in case someone annoys her that day and she needs to calm down.
Cliche number 1: The moody female boss
In another scene, Successful Businesswoman gets emotional and cancels the biggest deal her company has ever done on the phone from Goa. Everyone cheers loudly because this movie mixes up the issue of land-grabbing (why?) with feminism.
It's in this manner that AIG underlines the impression that women make poor business heads: they cancel multiple-thousand-crore deals on a whim to please a friend who has done them a good turn. Let's not even ask about aforementioned team who worked hard on this deal. Or the thousands whose livelihood may be dependent on it.
Cliche number 2: Women can't keep the personal and professional separate. Also, 2a) are high-strung and over-emotional
To make it worse, she makes a wedding present of it. Your cancelled deal is my wedding gift? Maybe we were out to bust the myth that women are good at selecting presents?
It's hard for me to ignore the number of cliches in AIG even though its good intent is evident.
The Activist is fierce, dark, wears a headband that she doesn't take off for the duration of the film, and is rude and angry all the time, including at a memorial service where her speech about her dead friend is how she doesn't want to be angry anymore.
One girl is gay, another hysterical and suicidal, and a third has been suffering a bad marriage silently. Have we covered everything or do we need to fill the movie with more crises?
Oh wait, rape, there's got to be one. Let's throw in a white girl who can later be raped and killed but not before she makes her suicidal singer friend famous by posting a video of her song online a day before being murdered.
For an issue as horrific as rape, the scenes of her death and after are so cringe-worthy they're almost comical."Iske kapre aise kyon hai?" asks one friend. "Iski shorts toh upar karo" says another. Everyone is screaming, relentlessly, wringing their hands. Your friend is lying nearly dead on the beach, clearly sexually-assaulted, and this is your collective emergency response? They spend long minutes doing a modern take on "hai hai yeh kya hua" in one of the worst scenes of the movie, instead of rushing her to medical help. When a cop does come to the crime scene and asks who is getting married to whom (eh?), they idiotically reveal that it was going to be a gay marriage because (new cliche alert) women also have no presence of mind.
Cliche number 100x: women have no clue what to do in an emergency except to go hysterical and make a bad situation worse
That one cannot even feel adequately upset at the death of the only endearing character in the movie is its biggest tragedy. In Jo, the half-Brit girl, we had the semblance of a character one could love and identify with. The only truly fabulous scene in AIG involves her, an aspiring actor who keeps ruining a B-grade movie shot because she cannot help bashing up her captors when all she has to do is struggle helplessly.
Jo fights back about her London accent by taking witty jibes at the Indian one, and makes it clear that jokes about her career choices are unacceptable after a point, even from friends and family.
However, I used the word semblance, because sadly the same Jo then goes on to exchange the most ridiculous, unreal, coy glances with a boy next door who she's got the hots for. You're from London. In Goa. On holiday. With your girlfriends. In the 21st century. Ask him out, dude.
Though it gets its larger message across, that women have many, many battles to fight, AIG tries to cover too large a ground and address too many (tangential) issues via too many characters. The discussion on Article 377 is so tedious and contrived that it seemed like we hit pause on the movie for a round-table session.
And perhaps the most seriously mixed-up messaging in the movie is that it is okay to kill, even be proud of it, for the right reasons. But then mixed-up - and mixed - messaging is precisely where Angry Indian Goddesses begins to lose the plot in the first place. In the end, all we're left with is a bunch of Annoying Indians, Gender Irrelevant.
More in Catch: