Verdict - Masala, Action and message, an almost complete package there!
There is a set pattern for a “Woman centric” film in mainstream Hindi Cinema. The lady starts happy, small, is a victim, and ends an avenger with blood on her hands. It is almost unimaginable to have another narrative for the female character; for all the new age-ness of our popular films, some things seldom change. Gulaab Gangs real strength is in reversing the quintessential victim avenger equation for a female centric film, women here are empowered and out to assert their rights. The hero and the villain are women who do not have time to dwell on the sob story that made them thus.
Rajjo is a vigilante; her aashram for helpless women weaves pink sarees, trains them in hand and weapon combat and she is the one stop go to for an entire village for all their worries. Her dream is to educate the girl child, for education is her idea of freedom and empowerment. Her problem is Sumitra Devi, a shrewd politician who sees nothing wrong in politicking for the sake of it. Gulaab Gang is a story of their one-up-manship and in the process a commentary on empowerment of the women folk. Sugar coated with a heavy dose of the Dabangg R…Rajkumar school of masala, the film has its heart in the right place and manages to entertain with a few flaws nonetheless.
Debutant director Soumik Sen wields the pen as well with story and is credited for the music. The songs are energetic, meaningful and bring back quintessential folk tunes back to cinema. The story is tight and pacy in the first half, but it is the second half where one wishes editing took precedence and things moved faster. Amitosh Nagpals fiery dialogues however keep one engaged, it has been a while since the “ un shining” India found such presence on the silver screen in Hindi. The triumph of Gulaab Gang is its casting coup. Madhuri Dixit Nene as Rajjo and Juhi Chawla as Sumitra are in top form, both in a never before avatar and shock the hell out of you.
Madhuri flies, cuts through fat goons like they were onions for lunch, dances, sings, and gives her all to make Rajjo come alive. She is pitch perfect in every emotion, she looks like she is having a ball beating the goons black and blue, and her enthusiasm is infective. Throughout the film, her riveting screen presence lends credence to otherwise weak screenplay that threatens to unravel at the slightest twist and turn. The sheer amount of fun one has in the fight sequences as she leads her band of pink in a bash fest is worth your money. Yes, her makeup, perfect curls in colored hair, ikkat blouses take a little away from the impact , but then Gulaab Gang is a commercial masala entertainer at the end of the day.
Juhi is the other solid pillar of this film. It took me some time to accept her as the bad lady. Once past the initial awkwardness, she nails it perfectly. Her Sumitra is unapologetically evil. She doesn’t think twice at flashing out a rate card for rape compensation or humiliating her cronies to assert her position. The screen explodes whenever Juhi and Madhuri come together, one wishes they get more chances like this.
Gulaab Gang talks of rapes, domestic violence, corruption and apathy of the powerful towards the weak, in particular the women. Through song dance and some dialogue bazzi it puts across its point vociferously. It could have gone the art film route, it has chosen the masala entertainer route, and with the incumbent flaws of the latter, it manages to kindle a thought in our minds.
As the end credits roll, we are reminded that Rajjo needn’t always fight with a sickle in hand, Rajjo’s fight everyday around us for respect and equality. A perfect salute to them and decent entertainment, catch this one for sure.