Film Review: Provoked

Film: Provoked

Director: Jagmohan Mundhra

Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Miranda Richardson, Naveen Andrews

Rating: 3.5/5

Provoked is much more than a mere film, it is a person’s life showcased on the silver screen. Does a critic then have a right to judge such an effort? But by virtue of the venture being showcased on celluloid and the lead role being essayed by Aishwarya Rai, it turns into a commercial film, and hence needs to be adjudged so.

Based on the life of Kiranjit Ahluwalia (Aishwarya Rai), a woman who sustained spousal (Naveen Andrews) abuse for 10 long years till one day when she decided she would suffer no more. Convicted of murdering her husband, Kiranjit was sentenced to life in prison, where she found her freedom and the strength to emerge a stronger woman. 

Meanwhile, outside the four walls of the prison, the fight for her cause took momentum thanks to the help of the Southhall black sisters, an NGO that supported the cause of  women who have suffered at the hands of their spouses. After three years in prison, Kiranjit was set free after the court passed a judgment in her favour. The story has been out there for years now, but for the first time, it has been told to a larger audience.

What is impressive about this film is the place in which it is set, England. Keeping in mind the location, the director does full justice not just to the story, but also the environment. The film is unbelievably English, with visible tones of blue, grey, black and yellow. Also, the English have a sense of mellow yet emotional stories to tell; Mundhra has very well understood the environment and shot the entire film based on this sensibility.

If you choose to look past the obvious, the film works on three levels. That of love and betrayal, an emergence of a stronger woman and thirdly, a yarn of right versus wrong. There is a sense of purity with which the film is told, which this sort of tale needed, and this particularly makes for great viewing.

The pace is the film’s grey area – with a story that has so much to tell and where the audience longs to know more, the film seems a tad bit too fast paced. It typically follows the conventional “open, body, end” format. The editing is flawless, heightened emotional scenes are placed right next to mellowed ones. This sort of editing aids the viewer from holding back those tears, yet feeling a sense of compassion for the story being told.

The cinematography is commendable, the colours and the dry environment are well brought out. The close ups and panoramic shots create a sense of connection with the character.

Sometimes, the actor can take away from a film far more than what they can provide the film with, and Provoked is a classic example. The creation of actors as brands can be the major problem. One often gets caught up with Rai’s flawless beauty (she looks God sent in practically every frame), even though this is perhaps her best performance after Raincoat.

Of course, there are times when she forgets to act. Like in the scene where Richardson is explaining what ‘heaving bosoms’ are, Rai’s expression is visibly generated. In every scene, Andrews’ presence is overpowered by Rai’s. In his limited screen time, however, Andrews manages to deliver a decent performance, although one has seen better work from him. Miranda Richardson and Nandita das are evidently brilliant, each scene enacted with great indulgence and élan.

Provoked will undoubtedly get a large viewership thanks to Rai’s presence. Conversely. many viewers could also watch the film for what they choose to see, failing the purpose of the film. The film will fail to touch the prime audience who should have ideally been the SEC B and lower audience. It will be urban and multiplex goers the film will earn a major chunk of revenue from. Expect it to do a fair performance at the box office.

You can choose to have a positive or negative opinion, but you cannot walk out of this film, having none. Provoked is larger than a film, it is a show reel of life, celebrate it.

Sanjay Ram

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