Set in the depths of Uttar Pradesh, in a little known place called Bundelkhand, Sampat Pal’s story is one of honour, courage, and dissent against the prevailing patriarchal voices of society. The documentary covers her fights against the injustice meted out to women in these remote villages, where women are killed off either at birth, and those who survive are married off early, kept illiterate, and face abuse at the hands of the men.
To understand the film and its sensitive topic, one must read up a bit about Sampat Pal. Pal, belonging to one of the local backward communities, was married off at an early age and received extremely harsh treatment at the hands of her in laws and husband. Refusing to put up with it like the rest of the women in the village, she formed her “Gulabi Gang”, getting together women to take action against these men. Empowering the local illiterate women with pink saris and lathis in order to face their aggressors, Gulabi Gang has now spread from Bundelkhand to the rest of Northern India, having a total strength of approximately 115,000 members.
The film studies specific cases where the Gulabi Gang led by Sampat Pal intervene to ensure that the dignity of women in the country remain unscathed. The camera follows the outspoken, brash, articulate Sampat as she looks into cases of indiscriminate murders and atrocities against women.
Shot beautifully, Nishtha manages to keep the audience glued on to the screen throughout what is probably the most socially relevant film to have hit the theatres in recent times. The use of the colour pink several times on screen acts to justify the nomenclature of the film. At no point of time does this documentary become overtly informative or pretentious in portrayal. By the end of the film the audience feels a connect with not only the brave hearted Pal, but with also Nishtha’s style of powerful story telling.
With a running time of nearly 96 minutes, one feels that the film could have been a few minutes shorter, making it an even more gripping experience.
Interestingly, with Gulabi Gang, producer Sohum Shah establishes himself as a producer to look forward to in the indie film circuit, joining the ranks of Anurag Kashyap, Q and Guneet Monga.
This film is not one which you should watch for entertainment. It has a beautifully endearing but not your quintessentially “sexy heroine”. And there’s not much music to boast of, apart from some chants of the local women of Bundelkhand. But do go ahead and watch this film. It will make you a wiser person. And more importantly, it’s that rare, brilliant attempt at good non fiction cinema.