The Sky is Pink Movie Review: More than anything else, the film is about love that endures

The film is nothing if not a testament to the power of love in the face of life…or rather, death.

The Sky is Pink: A story about life, love and everything else in between…and after
Image Credit: Google

Director: Shonali Bose

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra, Zaira Wasim, Rohit Saraf

From the time Priyanka Chopra-starrer Mary Kom (2014) graced the screens, biopics haven’t stopped raining in Bollywood. Cinematically presenting a living human’s extraordinary life has been quite the norm. But with Shonali Bose directed The Sky is Pink cine-goers have now been treated to a slice-of-the-life film – narrated by a protagonist (Aisha Chaudhary played by Zaira Wasim) who’s at the heart and soul of it, but no longer there to see what becomes of her story.

To top it all – there are ample opportunities to giggle, raise our eyebrows at a naughty schoolgirl discussing the ins and outs of her parents’ sex life from the afterlife, and feel her ‘teen angst’ over unrequited love as much as the actual, physical limitations she was born, and then had to die with.

Because that is how the makers likely intended the audience to feel – there is life, and there is death, but there’s so much to cherish before and after death. Aisha suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID) throughout her life – a crucial aspect that the makers have been careful in portraying without going overboard with the tragedy inherent in this condition. One can see that the film is painted with broad strokes of hope and joy, rather than the predictable terrain such a subject could involuntarily veer into.  

Perhaps, Aisha saw her life as magic and the filmmakers found no reason to infuse cloying sentimentality and deliberate sobriety in a human story that, as we see it today, is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Niren (Farhan Akhtar) and Aditi (Priyanka Chopra) make you chuckle at numerous points in the film – their days of falling in love and being carefree, their conversations around unprotected sex, even the way they handle a marital squabble over Niren helping out some to-be-divorced woman – are all cute and genuinely enjoyable. But what truly takes your breath away is how the pair navigate the ugly, frightening parts – with resilience and blind faith. In whatever higher power had brought them to this stage, but most of all, in each other to see this through.

However, make no mistake. The unmistakable beauty in, and the poignant remnants of the Chaudhary family’s shared lives that the audience gets to experience in the film has been hard-won, crafted and built from the ground up with unflinching patience, an unwavering sense of duty, and astounding willpower but most of all, undying, unconditional love.

Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar are outstanding as Aditi and Niren

What begins with an oddly exciting yet tense moment surrounding Aisha’s conception almost twenty-three years ago swiftly turns into a financial and emotional roller-coaster – tearing the Chaudharys’ lives apart, yet making them just as stronger and indefatigable as a married couple. Their love endures moving to a foreign land without preparation, later travelling back and forth between India and London while trying to hold on to their marriage and working night and day shifts for Aisha’s treatment, even going without long stretches of no intimacy. A concerned look here, an understanding hug there – in the midst of cranky conversations when the pair do meet between beginning and ending the day – is all they can afford.

Farhan Akhtar has been consistently wowing us since his very first film, Rock On. Here too, he impresses us with his measured, yet affecting performance. It is however, Priyanka Chopra as Aditi, who towers over all other performances in The Sky is Pink, and stands out as the thread that holds the various elements of the film together. Chopra has indeed, come a long way as an actor. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her stoic silences when she is faced with the everyday reality of Aisha’s condition, or the fire in her eyes when she walks out of her plush London home like a boss owning her life, or the flicker of indignance that her husband should want her to not talk about their dead child.

There are two scenes in the film that particularly showcase the depth of the lead pair’s acting. Niren and Aditi somehow manage to come to terms with the doomed realization that Aisha would have to undergo bone marrow transplant to extend her life by a few years. But what shocks them more is that the transplant proves to be simply a precursor to a decade-long wait before the doctors could deem Aisha stable. A swath of cold air passes over Niren’s face when he gets hit by the fact that they would have to readjust their lives and careers yet again. By now, viewers would’ve lost count of the trips made between India and London.

The other scene that really gripped me is an altercation between Niren and Aditi in the restroom of an upscale restaurant after the latter storms out of the dining area, following a rather crude and insensitive remark from one of their friends. The couple, who’d just lost Aisha to pulmonary fibrosis, found themselves in a heated conversation about who was to be blamed. But of course, they knew the answers already. They were always fighting a losing battle from the start. Those few heart-rending moments have been brilliantly portrayed by Akhtar and Chopra, who help us have a glimpse into what the Chaudharys may have endured.

Especially Chopra, as Aditi, is magnificent in her role as a mother, but more than that a round-the-clock caregiver. You feel her strength breaking, her tired and empty soul, and yet her single-minded devotion to keep their child alive at any cost. Underneath this crushing responsibility lies the regret that she has not really been there for her elder child, Ishaan (Rohit Saraf). The fact that she may have inadvertently neglected him, haunts her as well.

Being split into hopeful, cynical and guilty bits of yourself is never easy, Chopra essays that with the strokes of an experienced actor who knows the value of underplaying a certain character. The aftermath of death is an impossible grief that refuses to let go, The Sky is Pink, even amidst its light moments never fails to impress upon the audience of the crude reality.

All is not gloom and doom though. There are heart-warming moments between Aisha and her brother Ishaan, who she fondly calls Giraffe. So are her conversations with Niren and Aditi who are Panda and Moose for her, not regular Dad and Mom. It does come across as self-indulgent at times, but what is a teen girl if not childlike?

Amidst everything else, the Chaudharys made sure they kept the fun alive!

Viewers might find it disconcerting that a lot of Aisha’s pain and struggles have been brushed under the carpet, or that, most of the movie is about the Chaudharys’ navigating their child’s condition and doing everything in their power to keep her alive – rather than the actual pain of living with such a condition. However, given that the film has been narrated by Aisha, who was in her teens when she passed away, it is understandable why the film is equal parts heart-breaking and equal parts hopeful. Seen from her perspective, her life was every bit a miracle and she chooses to retain nothing but the good parts – regardless of the other world she’s in now.

My only grouse with the movie is that the film did not emphasize enough on Aisha’s book-writing journey (she wrote a book titled “My Little Epiphanies” ). We are never made aware of how the idea of writing a book germinated in her mind or what compelled her to see the beauty in her life. We are merely allowed a cursory glance at these crucial aspects of her life – towards the end of her time on earth, the very things that made her a global icon. Her inner life is never sufficiently probed.

Despite its flaws, The Sky is Pink is still worth a watch, simply because it touches upon the subject of life and death, and life after death using a featherweight approach. You dive deep enough to ponder the meaning of it all, but come out alive just in time to realize – there is nothing, if not beauty, in the moments that try your spirit as a human. It is bittersweet, hopeful even – once you gather the courage to begin at the end. Again. Like Niren and Aditi did.

My rating: 3.5/5

Hope aur Hum Review: All heart, no theatrics, the film still gets you to smile

A slice-of-life film that touches your heart without making much noise.

hope-aur-hum-movie-review-759Source: Google

There are days when you want to hang up your boots and breathe deep, removing yourself from the humdrum of life and not do anything at all. There are seasons – like the first rains hitting the ground or that first snowflake artistically cascading down to kiss the grass underneath – that make you want to wrap your palms around a mug of coffee and simply stare out your window, probably contemplating the mysteries of life and just being in the moment. Content, still, mindfully idle.

Hope aur Hum is exactly the kind of movie that feels like those not-too-happening days darting from frustration to disappointment to agony to deliberate silence, before bouncing off to become those other days where you are greeted with nothing but bursts of joy and textbook optimism.

A debut feature film of ad filmmaker Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Hope aur Hum starts off by placing an old, faulty photocopy machine (affectionately named Mr.Soennecken) and patriarch Nagesh Srivastava’s (Naseeruddin Shah) decades-long bond with it, a nostalgia he refuses to give up on, despite his customers’ obvious displeasure with the machine’s performance.

Nagesh, who, on more than one occasion, effusively talks about the outdated German machine hailing it as a state-of-the-art beauty, and the act of producing photocopies an art in itself, is repeatedly nudged by his sons and his daughter-in-law – older Neeraj (Aamir Bashir) and his wife Aditi (Sonali Kulkarni), and the younger Nitin (Naveen Kasturia) – to replace the outdated photocopier with a modern, efficient one; suggestions he glosses over, preferring to romanticise his fondness for Mr.Soennecken instead.

The only ones who empathize with him are his grandchildren Tanu (Virti Vaghani) and her younger brother Anu (Kabir Sajid), despite the fact that such support would mean they would have to continue sharing a room, which could very well have been allotted to adolescent Tanu, as Aditi wonders aloud one evening, resentfully. To add to this resentment, there is her husband’s overdue promotion at work to lament about, robbing away the slightest sliver of hope Aditi could have held on to.

Against this background, there is a question that persistently hangs in the air – will making way for some room and a new way of life mean discarding the old German photocopier, and in turn, stepping over Nagesh’s attachment with the obsolete machine?

Hope aur Hum still 1

It is an ordinary setting and intensely metaphorical, of the old trying to come to terms with their value past their thrive date, of adults struggling to grapple with the motions of life (that is frequently unkind and disappointing) and of growing children looking out into the world from a perspective neither adults nor the elderly can understand nor emulate.

Plenty of meandering happens in this context – maternal grandmother’s (Beena Banerjee) resigned decision to sell off her palatial old haveli to a hotel chain is roped in for some added drama, via an experience and a promising sub-plot that deviates from the predictable mundaneness of the story and hints at mystery. This strange incident Anu experiences in a dark, forgotten room in the mansion though, is abandoned in favor of lending a silken, hopeful touch to the climax of the film. That said, child actor Kabir’s scenes in the mansion and thereafter are powerful, pulling us in crests and troughs, as we ride on the wave of emotions so effortlessly portrayed by him.

hope-aur-hum

Coupled with his cheeky squabbles with the older, feisty Tanu, his thoughtful support of his grandpa’s love for Mr.Soennecken, and his innocent outlook on life, are an absolute delight to watch. Needless to say, Kabir Sajid, who last gave an outstanding performance in Secret Superstar, continues to wow the audience with each endeavor and doesn’t look like he will fade like one-hit wonders usually do.

To be fair, Kabir is not the only thing to look forward to in a simplistic tale like Hope aur Hum. We have Naveen Kasturia (TVF fame) as Nitin, Nagesh’s younger son, who stirs things up with his freshness and easy charm. Back from Dubai for a vacation before he sets off on a Europe trip, he brings in tow a brand-new photocopy machine, fully expecting his aging father to warm up to this gentle, but very direct suggestion: Pop, it’s time to get rid of Mr.Soennecken.

And while the suggestion is in itself pointless and draws mere disinterested looks from Nagesh, Naveen’s very presence in this cramped, cluttered house leads him on to a trail of strange but exciting events that help in drastically changing the overall tone of the movie. He loses his flashy smartphone in a taxi on the way home, spends a couple of days frantically looking for it in the Srivastava house, before being led on a journey of hope and a shot at (elusive love?) by none other than the pretty girl who’d ‘rescued’ his phone in the taxi – ostensibly playing the good Samaritan, but with undertones that went deeper than what met the eye.

Interestingly, as the film moves at a languorous pace, Nitin’s brush with the “phone girl” and his peaking interest in what this chance encounter held for them both, towers over Hope aur Hum’s original central theme, and buttresses Nagesh’s wistful, meditative view of life, where “Everything is destiny.” A pleasant surprise awaits the audience as the movie draws to a close, and appears to be a more viable thread of events to base a sequel on, than the one the present movie is based on.

Kasturia’s brilliance lies in his easy charm, and the nervous uncertainty he brings to Nitin – making his character look affable and instantly likable. Paired well with his laidback yet buoyant demeanor is a sensual, exotic Neha Chauhan (of Love, Sex and Dhoka fame) playing the mystery girl –  a vibrant force, she almost knocks the dull vibe of the movie right out of the screen, claiming her own space in less than ten minutes.

Like Kabir, Virti as Tanu hits the right notes as the lively, belligerent, dominating elder sibling. Ready to fight Anu at the drop of a hat, she is just as anxious to see him behaving differently than his usual self and hopes he will revert to his normal, mischievous, bratty self.

Naseeruddin Shah as Nagesh pulls out familiar expressions, practiced sighs, and deliberate pauses from his bag of tricks – fully impressing us in his inimitable style, and yet, there isn’t room enough for his character to grow and spread its wings and deliver something he hasn’t in his previous outings as the old man imparting life wisdom to the young and brash. His relationship with the grandchildren is possibly the only highlight of his performance and is bound to tickle plenty of warm, nostalgic memories shared with your own grandparents.

Bashir and Kulkarni are regrettably unutilized in this project, their characters written in a flat, unremarkable style. A lack of credible performances from these gifted actors is, however, the fault of the script alone that positions them as blandly as it eventually does.

Despite the apparent glitches in the storyline and less-than-moving performances of some of the characters, the movie is worth giving a try, especially if you are in the mood to spend a sultry afternoon doing nothing. For, even in your moments of nothingness, the film is certain to make you smile wistfully and believe in the rhythm of life as it wraps up.

At the heart of Hope aur Hum lies a naïve idealism, the unexpected hand of destiny and the way it plays out in our lives. The movie is clear on what it wishes to portray – that it is not always in the grand and dramatic that you find life’s joys but sometimes in the little things that often escape your notice. Life isn’t perfect, you aren’t perfect, but as long as there’s hope and a dream for a better tomorrow, it’s as good as good can be.

 

Rating: 2.5/5