I find it extremely difficult to analyse this movie because of the sheer emotion it made me feel. But I really need to, because when I looked up the reviews it had gotten, I was thoroughly disappointed. Angry Indian Goddesses has been called ‘an every issue movie’ that’s taken too much on its plate, that it ‘tumbled down’ when things shifted from light humour to rape, that it showcases a very stereotypical characters and that the movie was really about women trying to take on the space of men.
“An Every Issue Movie”
I really need to get this out of the way so I’ll say it now- issues don’t come up and cannot be resolved in isolation. Social Issues are embedded in a matrix so yes, women’s rights, caste, homophobia, lax judiciary systems and even activism for tribal land ( all of which are brought up in this film) are related. And I personally love the fact that Pan Nalin has made it a point to showcase this.
“But its taking on the space of men”
And two, what exactly is a man’s space? Drinking on the beach? Driving jeeps and bikes? Or even just simply having fun? The problem here is that although men and women are seen as two separate poles (which in itself is a wrong analogy for gender), the poles don’t have equal weight-age. When we think of human, we think of man as normal and woman as an aberration of the normal, the second sex. The fact that reviews are saying that this is women trying to take on the space of men is problematic because we are pre-defining a space for men, a space of freedom that women, being the second sex cannot enter.
Creating Woman Space:
A huge reason for women to not have revolted the way it happened in class and slavery struggles is because women, until recently and still not frequently enough, have not had the space to interact with each other as individuals. Women space is the private sphere of the home while men have the public sphere for interaction. The film starts with showing us each woman in her sphere an the push and shove she faces for being a woman.
They then all arrive at their friends house and this for me is interesting because rarely do you get a glimpse of women living together in a home like this. Sure, you have Indian joint families but there again you are rivaling women in household roles, the mother the wife of a man. But the film made sure to not just showcase unrealistically context less women having a leisurely time. There was parenting duties, partner issues and professional responsibilities and dilemmas there.
Angry Indian Goddesses calls for woman space, not only through its message but even through its making in the Bollywood sphere. 96% of films in Bollywood only portray women as secondary characters, as lovers, mothers, etc. who only exist in relation to the corresponding male hero. And female to female relations are barely ever built. Now here’s a film with 7 female protagonists that not only display the much needed female to female relationship (rivalry and saas bahus out of the way please) but also depict each woman as a dynamic individual with aspirations and fuck ups and essentially a place in this world.
The Subtler Issue
The film is filled with heated debates about sexual harassment, Article 377, the place of a woman at home, suicide; this makes for the active deconstruction of societal chains.
However, what I loved more about the film was how it was able to get the nuances of societal restrictions and norms.
In this scene, the women have just returned from a jeep ride that lead to a violent encounter with some local jerks. They are all sitting around the table discussing how prevalent sexual harassment is.
All except for Laxmi, who stands on the other end of a metal screen, in the shadows. Laxmi is the house help, a woman of a lower caste, and hence, although she voices herself, she is not found at the table with the other more privileged women. These two shots beautifully capture the structure of the Caste system prevalent in our own homes.
Angry Indian Goddesses shows us how this public sphere, and space for freedom can be a woman’s space as well a man’s but manages to at the same time, snatch it away from us once the rape happens, once police men and the law come in. The truth is that women, like myself whom are educated, liberal, young Indians are living in a bubble of liberalism with like-minded people, until we have to face the realities of our country when an encounter as such happens.
The film knows this and is fairly self conscious in its portrayal of this bubble in Indian society and the popping of it. In spite of this the film ends on a high note; when the police walk into the funeral and call for the people who murdered Joane’s rapists, everyone stands up.
Although the film deals with woman space primarily, it shows it interlaced with other spheres of caste, homosexuality, work etc. It is a self conscious film that is able to deconstruct the chains of society in both an active and passive manner.