One of the most mesmerising scenes comes at the beginning of the movie, when the gulaab gang descend from the hills to tackle the corrupt government official who have stalled electricity meant for the village. You see them slowly descending and the pulsating background music makes you wait in bated breath. They politely ask for electricity and are stonewalled. So they lock the government officials inside and board the building. At night, they sing and dance around a bonfire while at a distance, lights start dotting the village. And you realise that Sampat Pal, the real-life Gulaabi Gang leader and the basis for the film, should just let go of any apprehension. It is a film, a work of fiction. It is not exceptional nor is it without imperfections. Yet, you have to opportunity to leave the theatres with a smile.
Director: Soumik Sen
Actors: Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Divya Jadgale, Priyanka Bose, Tannistha Chatterjee
Music: Soumik Sen
You meet Rajjo Devi (Madhuri Dixit… why is she so beautiful?), who is the messiah of the women folk and the down-trodden. Any trouble and her gang in pink arrive with laathis and other weapons to belt out justice, their style. The chief amongst the band of bad wolves is Sumitra Bagrecha (Juhi Chawla… why is so cute even now?), an ambitious politicians who will not stop at anything. A few incidences pit the two women powers against each other. Thus begins the game of Sumitra trying to totally annihilate Rajjo and her gang.
It is always interesting to see to women protagonists standing on either side of morals and fight it out. This is unlike the scenarios where the woman protagonist has to fight against the corrupt powers, lead by a man. When two women get into a conflict with each other, it is a different battle altogether. While the basis might be Sampat Pal’s gang, Gulaab Gang can safely be called a fictional attempt, with all the typical Bollywood trappings. It has the usual – an emotional weak woman saved who later becomes its strength, a motormouth who gets bumped off (spoiler alert), typical evil politicos, corrupt officials, an honest official ready to give up his job for the good and so on, some betrayals, many humiliations and so on. But the chances are that you somehow feel that after being promised a five-course meal, you have been given an aloo paratha. Despite the unusual plot, the situations and characters makes the story predictable and at times, even gross. But one cannot totally dismiss the film totally.
What lifts the film to another level is the acting, especially by the leading actresses. Madhuri Dixit as Rajjo exudes a certain fire required for the character of a leader who fights against injustice. There is a certain calmness when you see her handle things and see people as they are. And one is glad that Sumitra Devi’s role went to Juhi Chawla. Only she could come out against Madhuri unscathed. Despite her cute impish smile, she exudes a certain arrogance, and monstrous attitude required for her role. Both Dixit and Chawla reconfirm the reason why actresses after them have not been able to reach their heights. Divya Jagdale, Priyanka Bose and Tannistha Chatterjee are good in their roles but the rest are just unknown faces fading into oblivion.
Gulaab Gang is Soumik Sen’s first film and you cheer him for taking a woman oriented film. His narration is neat, though there are loopholes. He has been ably supported by his cinematographer Alphonse Roy and art directors Subrata Chakraborthy and Amit Ray in capturing rural life beautifully. Sadly, Soumik who also turns the music director for the film, rises in just one song – Jai Ho which comes at the end titles.
In our industry, a shoddy story pulls a bigger crowd thanks to a few stars and better money flow, while a good story struggles to reach its audience. Gulaab Gang has an interesting story and a great lead. But Soumik Sen’s efforts are good enough for just one watch.
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