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Yahoo Meta Review: Gulaab Gang

Movie Reviews
10 March 2014

Cast: Madhuri Dixit Nene, Juhi Chawla Mehta, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Priyanka Bose, Divya Jagdale

Direction: Soumik Sen

The biggest feat that Soumik Sen has accomplished with ‘Gulaab Gang’ is that he managed to cast once arch rivals, Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Juhi Chawla-Mehta as the hero and villain in his film, the rest is just backdrop.

Baradwaj Rangan
says in his review, that he was expecting a “fiery feminist drama” but what he watched instead was a “Tamil/Telugu mass-hero masala movie – only, with women.” He explains:

As with the heroes in those films, we are teased with flashes of the heroine’s (Madhuri Dixit-Nene, playing Rajjo) presence before finally getting to the scene that reveals her face. We get the moment where she issues a challenge to the villain and walks away in slow motion. (It’s a villainess, really, a scheming politician named Sumitra, and played by Juhi Chawla. We get a glimpse of her feet first, which is only right given that that’s where she wants the men around her.) We get the action sequence where Rajjo defies a handful of laws of gravity and sends bad guys spinning through air. We get colourful punch dialogues, and punchy scenes like the one where a rapist taking a dip in the local lake – it’s a village named Madhavpur – is slowly surrounded by a dozen of the heroine’s henchmen (henchwomen, rather; the “gang” in the title is rather apt, for these women do what men do in gangs in the more macho movies). The heroine, inevitably, is compared to a goddess. When asked if Rajjo is right in wielding weapons, a cop says, “Durga maiya ke haath mein bhi hain.” And the villainess? She’s so unspeakably evil that she rubs her palms with hand-sanitising lotion after touching a villager’s child during a photo op. Even the characters and situations are the ones we’d find in the Tamil/Telugu masala movies. The politician’s son who specialises in rape. The spineless secretary. The heartless collector who demands exorbitant bribes to deliver the most basic services. The heroine’s trusted (and much loved) lieutenants who will meet a tragic end. A risible climax involving a machine gun attack that’s conveniently filmed by a videographer. An all-male remake featuring Vijay and Prakash Raj may not be far away.

Despite it’s many flaws what works for the film are the power-packed performances. Taran Adarsh says in his review:

A big reason the film never feels contrived is its tremendous cast, especially Madhuri and Juhi. It's a pleasure to watch Madhuri essay the role of Rajjo with flourish. In her three-decade-long career, the actress has worked in practically all genres of cinema, but GULAAB GANG gives her the platform to explore not just the dramatics, but action too. She enacts the part of a righteous woman with supreme understanding and deserves brownie points for a terrific portrayal. Matching Madhuri with a pitch-perfect portrayal is Juhi, who defiantly ventures into an alley she has never sauntered into in her career earlier. The actress displays the evil side without resorting to loud theatrics or attempting to overpower her co-star. You'd love to hate Juhi here, for she lives up to the character of a shrewd plotter and an acute schemer.

Other performances are finely pitched as well and topping the list is Divya Jagdale, who stays in your memory much after the screening has concluded. Priyanka Bose is first-rate. Tannishtha Chatterjee is wonderful.

‘Gulaab Gang’ wants to address pertinent issues but flounders repeatedly on the execution. Saibal Chatterjee’s review says:

But what is difficult to digest in Gulaab Gang is the suggestion that women must necessarily mimic men and turn into mindless mean machines to wage war on the problems facing them – lack of educational avenues, abuse at home and sexual violence – all of which are alluded to in the film.

The film’s much-touted feminism seems especially counterfeit when a ruffian is forced by members of the gang to drape a sari and perform an impromptu dance, the implication being that, for a man, there can be no humiliation worse than that.

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