Last year, after I had walked out of Nandita Das’ Manto, I had felt a very beautiful kind of sadness. I remember it was a Friday evening and not a preview show that I had gone for, and obviously I was supposed to write my review that very day. But I didn’t until Sunday, if I recall correctly. It wasn’t because I was out of words, that would mean me failing as a writer. But I was so overwhelmed by the entire experience of watching that film, that I just could not sit myself before a computer screen and type. I felt the same after Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink, except that I’ve now learnt to cope up with this sadness, keep it at bay for a while, write down my thoughts on the film and then return to the sadness, where I probably belong. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a depressing kind of sadness but perhaps what an artist feels between two of her works. There sure is an excitement to start something new, but she’s not yet ready to leave behind the colours that she so carefully spread across the previous canvas.
The Sky Is Pink is based on the life of Aisha Chaudhary, a teenager with pulmonary fibrosis – a physical condition, the answer of which lies only in death. This is not her story. Even though Aisha takes to centre stage, Shonali Bose narrates the story of her parents, Aditi and Niren, who leave everything they call their own for their daughter, who they know, from day one, will not live forever. This is a sad story, one that will move you to tears, but Shonali Bose and her writers, Nilesh Maniyar and Juhi Chaturvedi make sure to never cross the line into being overtly dramatic.
From the very beginning, the film tells us to not take death seriously and that if death is written for each one of us, sooner or later, why fear it? This is expressed in the way in which Zaira Wasim’s Aisha narrates the story. She makes us well aware that she is dead and gone, but what’s the fuss about it? Bose and her writers add this element of humour to balance against the deeply painful moments this film has to offer.
The film goes forward and backward in time, tracing the life of Aditi, played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Niren, played by Farhan Akhtar from their college days to after Aisha’s death and how they cope up with the ultimate reality that their daughter is going to die. Aditi and Niren wake up each day, thinking that today could be it, and before sleeping they’re thankful that it wasn’t.
Apart from the makeup and hair that changes to show different life stages (long hair for both Chopra Jonas and Akhtar when they’re young and just out of college, shorter when they’re older) what changes is the way in which both these fine actors portray their characters. Both Chopra Jonas and Akhtar do not look like fresh college graduates, and they know that, but when they’re on screen, you buy them as young adults in love, because they make it so believable. When Priyanka Chopra Jonas is running around in Niren’s Chandni Chowk home, you see the playfulness in her. When she steps into his London home, when she’s around fifty, you see the aching mother, and that is the true testament of an actor. The same for Akhtar. He plays along while being a young man in love, scared of and fighting for this woman, and when he’s an older man, a father of two, he switches to being responsible and direct in his manner. This is his finest work yet.
Chopra Jonas and Akhtar are playing aching parents here, and every single day is like a continuous horror film for them. Will our daughter die today is a constant, looming question that they deal with every living second of their lives. To express what Aditi and Niren felt would’ve been heartbreaking, because to watch it unfold on screen definitely was. And the finesse of Akhtar and Chopra Jonas just makes it more so. After Bajirao Mastani (even though there was Jai Gangaajal), I was dying to see Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a Hindi film. While I am very happy about what she’s done for herself and all of that, I have missed her in our films! She’s such a natural actor, especially in this film. The passion with with she plays Aditi, I had last seen her do that for Kashi Bai and before that for Meghna Mathur. What makes Chopra Jonas so good in this film is the fact that like Aisha’s real life mother, she gives Aisha more than she does to Aditi or anyone else. In a heartbreaking scene, Aditi says, “Aisha ke sivaye kisi aur ke lie kuch karna hi nahi aata,” and that seemed to be the one line description Bose gave to Chopra Jonas before they made this wonderful film.
Rohit Suresh Saraf plays their son, Ishaan, and he delivers, especially in two scenes – one when he’s in London, talking to a weeping Aisha who begs him for her life and another when he’s sitting in his bedroom, crying over Aisha’s death and Farhan Akhtar hugs him and cries as well. But the best scenes in the film are when Zaira Wasim is on screen. Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar’s chemistry is brilliant but what’s better is each of their chemistry with Wasim. While you can see Saraf trying to catch up to the charisma of these two actors, Wasim fits in naturally with them. She’s too gifted a performer. Like her parents, she too has to display a variety of emotions and she makes each expression of hers, each dialogue of hers so convincing. In a shattering scene, she asks her parents, “iska matlab main marne wali hoon?” and even though there is less talk after this point (in the scene), her eyes are all things scared, and cautious and conscious at the same time, maybe even more. It’s a little sad that Wasim chose to retire and we’ll probably not get to see her on celluloid again, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s a gem, and I really hope that someday, if she has found her answers, she makes a return to films.
The Sky Is Pink is a film told from a very special place in the heart. Shonali Bose’s first film, Margarita With A Straw, was told from a similar place. Bose is a master of dealing with sensitivity with sensibility, and not for a moment you sway from the screen. The pace of the film reduces in the second half, but this film is too wholesome to be talking about those things. This is a film about love, togetherness, the importance of family and the celebration of it all, and also the act of embracing – the good and the bad.
A strong headed Aditi, a hardworking Niren, a loving Ishaan and an adorable, understanding Aisha – differences make a family; these differences make them a home. Without even one, would it be a family? Perhaps not. That’s what Bose wants you to wonder, as you walk out of the film. Well, that and the fact that you don’t always need to take life and death so seriously. If you’re not living your life, if you don’t have a family you love and which loves you back, are you even living?
What Bose also wants you to know, as you sink in your seats, while the end credits roll, is, as Aisha says, “tumhara sky kissi bhi colour ka ho sakta hai, agar main chahu ki mera sky pink ho, toh woh pink hi hoga…”
All in all, please leave your phones aside and watch this film. More than watching it, what Bose, her writers, her crew and her actors want you to do is feel the film and listen to this wonderful story of Aisha and her epiphanies…
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