Synopsis: Angry Indian Goddesses is India’s first female buddy movie with a fresh, realistic portrait of women in India today. Frieda, a fashion-commercial photographer trying to find her own art, gathers her closest girlfriends from all over India to travel to Goa for a surprise announcement: she’s getting married!
Thus begins an impromptu bachelorette celebration that lasts for a full week. A riotous roller-coaster ride of girl bonding; friendships, break ups, make ups, fuck ups, passion, devastation, hesitation, terrorization and self realization.
Amidst the fun and frenzy, heartbreak and heartache, passion and obsession, youth and innocence, secrets tumble out, tensions emerge, bonds are formed and emotions run high. Soon events will take a more serious turn, but for the moment these women are determined to seize the day.
eyelights: its beautiful cast. its intentions.
eyesores: its delivery. its many clichés.
“I feel like I’m young, and I’m free.”
You have to love a title like ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’; it brings to mind so many images, such as a mythological epic with breathtakingly large scale conflicts, or a group of sublimely beautiful women raging against injustice. It’s the kind of title that, combined with its stunning North American promotional poster, promises such delights that it couldn’t possibly do any wrong.
Angry. Indian. Goddesses.
Dubbed the first Indian “buddy movie”, instead it tells the story of seven old friends who congregate at Frieda’s family home where she announces her upcoming nuptials. Over the course of a few days, the young women chillax together and reconnect. Secrets begin to surface. They get upset, they argue, and they always make up. But a devastating twist of fate is in store for them.
You want to love a movie called ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’.
Sadly, it’s the most conflict-avoidant movie I’ve seen in recent memory: a contrived melodrama, every bump in the road is either resolved quickly, effortlessly, or is utterly ignored – dismissed with a hug, maybe some tears (of joy or sadness)or with a music montage. It has all the superficiality of a dozen Hollywood teen movies crammed and wrapped up into one big “best of” picture.
- Mad’s suicidal impulses? They’re discussed over tears and then forgotten.
- The conflict between Su, the business woman, and Nargis, the activist? Frieda puts them in a room, tells them to sort it out and walks out. End scene. Now everything’s fine, water under the bridge.
- Mad’s rejection letter from a label? A friend comes in and plays her another song. They hug. (Later, one of Mad’s songs will be posted by Jo and it becomes a viral hit. Of course it does.)
- Pammy, the glamourous, uptight one, gets the idea of starting a business, after one of the others commented that she’s enslaved in her arranged marriage. Her spouse won’t allow it. They fight on the phone. End scene. (At least this one was resolved later – but half an hour later.)
- Frieda’s coming out? At first it’s a shock. Then everyone hugs. No problemo.
- Lakshmi’s firing for having a gun in the house? Over a musical montage, Frieda goes back to get her. Well, that’s settled then.
- Su’s daughter’s loneliness? One of the women shows Su the art that her child has been doing and, when the girl shows up, they hug and all’s well.
- The sexual assault…? It’s resolved with a quick kill, followed by a funeral.
- And the arrest? It’s averted when everyone stands up in unison, à la ‘Dead Poets Society’.
And on and on and on…
All the gimmicks come out, too: Dancing, singing, even frickin’ charades – in a scene so ridiculous that it defies all logic: Frieda is silent for twelve whole hours, but her friends only notice after 10 hours, when they ask her who she’s marrying. Until then, NO ONE NOTICED that she wasn’t talking, and she didn’t even explain herself. So she winds up miming her coming out.
Gah… so tacky.
Uh… I mean, touching.
Why couldn’t the filmmakers delve deeper into the heart of these issues? Was it because they themselves didn’t have the maturity to explore these conflicts? Was it because they didn’t know how to deal with the concerns that they had brought up? Or was it just that they had too many issues to tackle in their two-hour picture, that they’d bitten off more than they could chew?
Who f-ing knows.
But it was frustrating.
It eventually became a joke to me – even the moments that should have been sad. Whenever something happened, I kept trying to guess in what facile way the film was about to wrap things up. It had covered so many possibilities that, after a while, I started wondering what was left to explore. So I made a prediction about the sexual assault, which was unfortunately proven correct.
They even made the cast super pretty; there are no truly plain women in that group – even the non-model types were attractive in their own way. For a picture that is supposed to be about female empowerment, I wonder what to make of the fact that they’re all clichéd eye-candy. Can anyone relate to them? Will the movie resonate enough to pass along its various messages?
I’m not convinced that it can.
‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ didn’t deliver on its promise – both based on the title and the wicked fun opening sequence, which showed the women baring their teeth, each sticking it to the male chauvinists in their midst. It had me cheering, beaming broadly, and I suddenly half-hoped for an ass-kicking movie – though I’d seen the trailer and the picture looked like nothing special at all.
So I gave it a chance at first. But, after half an hour, I began to think that it was really slow to get angry.
Sadly, it never did.
Perhaps ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ is ground-breaking in India, where women are treated in deplorable ways. In North America, though, it’s trite. The picture injected so many conventions of Hollywood “girl bonding” that I questioned why it had assimilated these “values”. Ooh, a white wedding dress! Ooh, let’s have some drinks! Ooh, let’s drive around a convertible SUV!
Oh, brother! How superficial!
Let’s just say that it’s not very mature from a storytelling standpoint, nor from an emotional one. But at least it brings up a few important issues. I mean, it doesn’t discuss them, but at least they’re out there. And maybe that’s what an unsophisticated audience needs – a small dialogue starter. In fact, maybe it’s the kind of movie that should be played to 15-year-old Indian teens.
After all, today’s Indian teens could be the building blocks of a more progressive Indian culture.
Given the news coming from India these days, one can only hope so.
Date of viewing: August 26, 2016