‘The Sky Is Pink’ review: The theatrics of death and loss

The opening shot of The Sky Is Pink is an empty swimming pool in a posh Chhatarpur (Delhi) bungalow in the dead of night, accompanied by a melancholic and melodic humming of a child. Indoors, we see the mother, Aditi Chaudhary (Priyanka Chopra), slide out of her bed, walk into her daughter Aisha’s (Zaira Wasim) room to find an abandoned bed, covered with drapes and fairy lights. In the other room, Niren (Farhan Akhtar), the father, opens his eyes to find his wife missing and goes to comfort her.

They deal with an empty nest syndrome, but the situation is not just about the child moving out.

The film quickly explains, through Aisha’s own voice, that she is dead. She asks you not to pity her but the film insists otherwise. Right at the onset, you can glean that the film will hand-hold you through the lives of these characters, giving you constant cues of when to cry and when to laugh, without allowing moments like the opening scene, where the parents are grappling with loneliness and loss, to sit on its own emotional merit.

The Sky Is Pink
  • Director: Shonali Bose
  • Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim, Rohit Suresh Saraf
  • Story line: A family of four has to grapple with the inevitable death of a teenage daughter

The film wants to be 'cute' and a 'tearjerker'. It wants you to like the characters to such an extent that their loss shatters you. It won’t settle for introspection of death and loss. The film demands drama and theatrics. The effort and calculations made, to make it a “moving film” are so evident in its visuals and its background score, that you can see yourself being blatantly manipulated. There are all the conventional ingredients of ‘cuteness’ — bright colours, upbeat tunes, puppies, teenage crushes, ridiculous nicknames — used strategically to amplify sadness.

The film goes back and forth arbitrarily, meandering into subplots that exist solely to evoke sentiments, without adding up to the film’s narrative. The writing is so scattered and stretched that by the time the film should hit peak emotion, you are fatigued by being played and it’s hard to care much for the inevitable ending.

The discombobulated film isn’t sure of what it wants to say or depict: the impact of death on those left behind? The emotional countdown of a terminal illness on the person and her family? The philosophy of happiness or living in the moment? The differing ways in which a father and the mother process grief ?

The film wants to pack in everything and ends up as a farrago of all its ambitions. It wants to say something about abortion and the right to life as well (using an absurd Christianity sidetrack), but ends up making no cohesive argument.

In 2009, The Lovely Bones used a similar device of a young girl speaking to the audience after her death. She sees her family grappling in ways one can’t morally judge. Using this device of the ‘narrator from the beyond’, The Lovely Bones (especially the novel) brings out the moral ambiguity and helplessness, which has an indispensable role to play in processing this grief. But in The Sky is Pink, this device is yet another frivolous tool to control your emotions, or to go back and forth in time.

The loss of a child is also in many ways the loss of a future and in this case, the purpose of a mother’s life. There’s also guilt and the toll it takes on the relationship between the parents. Rabbit Hole (2010) sidesteps cliches of trauma by bringing out the everyday events and sheer emptiness that haunt you.

The Sky Is Pink, despite its leisurely 140-minute runtime, wants to make every beat and emotion a “moment”, disallowing the haunt of mundanity to penetrate the film in any way. The actors, Chopra, Akhtar and Wasim, perform in tandem with filmmaker Shonali Bose’s vision of an overtly dramatised film, with silly hairdos to demonstrate ageing.

It’s such a pity that the film has a powerful true story as its source material, yet its sole obsession is to make you either laugh or cry. The Sky Is Pink is perhaps better off titled, ‘Sometimes Happy Sometimes Sad’.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 9:54:42 PM |

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