What do women talk about when women talk? Actually, everything under the sun. Especially if they are in sunny Goa for a wedding. There’s nothing ‘angry’, to start with, about this bunch of young women which gets together to reminisce, giggle and celebrate: the conversation flows between the old pals – fashion photographer and bride-to-be (Sarah Jane Dias), corporate slave-cum-single-mom (Sandhya Mridul), a singer going through a dry patch (Anushka Manchanda), trying-very-hard-for-a-break actress (Amrit Maghera), the unhappily married (Pavleen Gujral), and fiesty activist (Tannishtha Chatterjee).
The lively essence of tried-and-about-to-be-tested friendship amongst articulate women is adroitly captured, even when a crucial plot point is stretched beyond belief, and even when you know they are playing to a type. It helps, of course, that they are all easy on the eye, but they don’t let that get in the way of expressing a sense of self, and what they want: whether it is drooling over a hot male neighbour (the female gaze on a barely dressed young man is a nice subversive touch), or dreaming about getting it on.
A nicely done gay thread is in here, too: there’s awareness between the two women in love, but nothing exaggerated, or in your face. It also helps that all the actresses appear to be enjoying themselves, and turn in natural performances. It is wonderful to see young women being themselves, and a film which is prepared to let them have their heads, and set up rhythms around each other.
Till the conflicts are kept relatable if predictable — Bollywood is a sexist cesspool, male employers are entitled—we relate as well. There’s a sari-clad housemaid (Gujral) fighting for her rights, just as much as the slick English speakers in short dresses. The point that all women are victims of patriarchy is well taken but obvious. Being married into a rich family where you have to spend your life pleasing your husband and in-laws and gifting them with children, is as much a pain as a working class girl having to pass by leering Lotharios.
Where the film goes off track is when it gets into heavier territory. There’s a rape and murder. A jeering policeman (Adil Hussain, who’s lately been making of habit of playing cops, last seen in ‘Main aur Charles’) shows up, making cracks about women roaming about alone at night, wearing these clothes, etc (it is Goa, dum dum). The women turn into the ‘angry Indians’ of the title, and the film plummets. Chortling companionably is one thing; turning into raging vigilantes is totally another. Or was the sudden change in tone meant to be a strong feminist statement? Whatever, it doesn’t quite come off that way.
These are flesh-and-blood women, and the film is delightful till they stay that way. Being labelled ‘goddesses’ seems like a ploy to reel in non-Indians looking for exotica, something the director does well. It doesn’t do these lovely ladies any favours.
Star cast of Angry Indian Goddesses: Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah Jane Dias, Anushka Manchanda, Pavleen Gujral, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande, Arjun Mathur, Adil Hussain
Director: Pan Nalin
Two and a half Stars