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Well-meaning, not well-crafted

anuj kumar
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could have been so much better Gulaab Gang
could have been so much better Gulaab Gang

First things first. Except for the colour, the film has little to do with Sampat Pal’s Gulabi Gang. It is the usual masala fare from Bollywood, garnished with some token realistic elements. The novelty is that here the hero and the villain belong to the same gender and that is not male. At many places it seems like a sequel to Mrityudand but fails to add much to what was said over a decade ago. Set in a fictional village manicured to appeal to a cross-section of audience, the gutsy Rajjo (Madhuri Dixit) runs a school where she instils courage in young girls. She wants to give them a book in one hand and a lathi in the other. Her motto is, when nothing works rod is god. She is happy raising issues of infrastructure and gender justice at the local level, and when circumstances demand, enters politics. She is up against a corrupt leader Sumitra Devi (Juhi Chawla), a prototype of a modern-day politician whose face can’t tell what is in her mind. While Rajjo is fighting male domination, Sumitra wants men to prostrate in front of her. She wants to use Rajjo, and when it doesn’t work, she decides to destroy her without letting the smile diminish.

Right from the montage and the swelling background score, you get an impression that director Soumik Sen has something path-breaking, but the story has been written and rewritten so many times that the end-product turns out to be rather predictable because he has two actors who belong to the old school and are not ready to go all out to turn it into something potent. They take the leap but only to land in the safe territory. After a point, one feels that the director is too keen to balance the presence of two big names in the narrative and as a result, the edges get softened.

He has tried to present Madhuri in the hues of Durga and allows Juhi to chew the scenery like the quintessential Bollywood villain, leaving the plot incoherent in the process. They come, exchange some fiery lines and prove that they are competent in histrionics. Many times, the narrative comes at the cusp of revealing some bitter truths about society and politics in the Hindi heartland — such as where a rape case in the constituency could mean different things at different times of the political cycle or the way Rajjo gives a lesson to college students in hunger management — but Soumik fails to place the soul into a compelling body of work. He is more into making statements. Very much like Juhi’s attempt to sound vicious, which doesn’t add up to something substantial.

Madhuri’s earnestness to be athletic in action sequences is commendable, but her rustic dialect sounds forced at times. And of course, if you have cast Madhuri, you should make her dance. But, Saroj Khan hasn’t given her any new moves and Madhuri resorts to the same old abhinaya she specialises in. The support cast, like the lead protagonists, is seen through a rose-tinted prism.

The film is well-meaning, reasonably well-acted, but not well-crafted.

anuj kumar

Gulaab Gang

Genre:Drama

Director:Soumik Sen

Cast:Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Priyanka Bose, Divya Jagdale

Storyline:Sparks fly when the paths of two women — a gutsy villager and a wily politician — cross

Bottomline:The safety first approach blunts the impact

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