Film Review: Pink Saris
Pink Saris is a documentary about Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of the ‘Pink Gang’ in Uttar Pradesh, India. The film is engaging, mainly due to the fascinating nature of the focal character.
Documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto follows Sampat Pal as she strives to help women who have been victimised by tradition in the northern Indian state. Among the women she encounters are those who have suffered domestic abuse, girls who have been married at a young age, and women abandoned by the partners because of their lower caste.
Sampat Pal is such an interesting character for a number of reasons. Firstly, the nature of her work is positive and inspiring. In a place where women’s rights are often secondary to tradition, Sampat Pal comes across as a strong and forthright individual. Although her aim to help women is clearly genuine, she is also a flawed character. In her quarrels with her partner Sampat Pal appears condescending, while her assertion that she “beat up a cop” can be considered arrogant, although amusing. Thus, Sampat Pal is a layered character, attempting to balance her work with the Pink Gang at the same time as looking after her family.
Longinotto tries to speak with the young girls that Sampat Pal helps, however they are not always able to speak frankly. Nevertheless, viewers are left with the distinct impression that the rushed marriage of a young girl, for example, is not what she really wants, rather it is the best outcome in a situation with limited options. It is a pity that the families who abuse or expel their daughter-in-laws are not (or chose not to be) interviewed for the film. Their input would have surely resulted in a more well-rounded presentation of the incidents dealt with by Sampat Pal.
The compilation of footage shot at home and around the villages with Sampat Pal gives an encompassing illustration of Sampat Pal’s life. The numerous shots of town and rural landscapes become a little tired as the film goes on, however. Whilst the captions of information are mostly useful and relevant, some of the facts given at the beginning of Pink Saris seem a bit obvious, indicating the film appears to be intended for an entry-level audience.
Overall, Pink Saris is an interesting but not entirely satisfying documentary. The film, like its focal character, is flawed though its good intentions are undeniable.
Pink Saris is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.