Friday Night Film Series Takes Viewers on an Emotional Roller Coaster

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A touching scene from the movie directed by Pan Nalin. 

Gloria Han

Visiting Professor of Film and Media Studies Eli Horwatt described this movie as somewhat of a “guilty pleasure,” and after the movie began, it was not hard to see why. This week’s Friday Night Film Series featured the Hindi film “Angry IndianGoddesses,” which finished second for the People’s Choice Awards at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Reportedly India’s first of the “female buddy” genre, the film revolves around a group of women, who gather at their friend Freida’s family home, where she announces that she is getting married. As the big day arrives, the group celebrates and bonds, all the while facing personal and societal issues that threaten to ruin their festivities.

The film starts off comically, introducing each character at their respective jobs. Suranjana, for instance, strips down to her bathing suit after a frustrating business meeting; Joanna refuses to play the role of a “damsel in distress” and seductively sways her hips, much to her director’s annoyance. The chemistry and interactions between Freida and her friends also induce laughter, leading viewers to believe that this film is a light-hearted comedy. However, this is quickly contradicted when Freida’s boyfriend Madhurita (or Mad) arrives unexpectedly, demanding to know why she has not contacted him for several days. He reveals to her confused friends that Freida has attempted to commit suicide, and he is therefore worried about her. After that, the film delves more and more into themes characteristic of a drama, and at one point even a thriller. The multiple genres present in the film are both its strength and its weakness: while they enable the display of many different emotions and stories, they also baffle the viewer. At one moment we are chuckling, and the next we are caught off guard with tears – and while this is not uncommon, “Angry Indian Goddesses” forces it in a way that feels unnatural and too conspicuous.

The film descends into cheesy, cringe-worthy clichés. The music throughout tries to dictate how we should feel, especially in the “touching” moments. One significantly corny scene passes by them when Joanna and Freida’s attractive neighbor pass by each other: as they stare into each other’s eyes, sappy instrumentals play in the background, close-ups follow and there is even slow-motion. It is unclear whether the filmmakers are aware of how contrived these moments are, and therefore if we are meant to sigh dreamily or snicker. Even the seemingly profound scenes are derived. For instance, Suranjana develops a deeper appreciation and love for her daughter after seeing all her photos and drawings, and she stops chastising her. Meant to pull at the heartstrings, the scene still somewhat succeeds, but feels overly familiar. 

Undoubtedly, “Angry Indian Goddesses” is ambitious, trying to cover multiple themes, like gender inequality, objectification, sexual assault, homosexuality and more. However, the focus on so many themes fails to convey any renewed sense of any of them. Perhaps if the film had chosen to expand upon just one or two subjects, it could have been more insightful. Even with these flaws, the film is still entertaining, much like a rollercoaster ride, and worth viewing. In particular, the last scene, exhibiting unity, is also unexpectedly moving.