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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Review: Provoked

Provoked (drama)
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews, Nandita Das
Direction: Jagmohan Mundra
It's Aishwarya's film from the word go. From the very first shot, the actor grabs the role by its horns and shakes it around to sculpt a moving portrayal of a battered woman who happens to chance upon a rare source of inner strength to fight against domestic terror and terrifying traditions that demand silence from a wife, come what may.
Based on the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who managed to find freedom, dignity and a life of her own after ending ten years of marital abuse with the drastic act of murdering her sleeping husband, Provoked draws its strength from two sources.
First, from the power of real life drama, where the facts itself are so gritty, you simply can’t go wrong with them. A simple Punjabi girl leaves her village to end up as the wife of a Brit boy (Naveen Andrews), who not only likes a bit on the side but also fails to tame the beast within.
So much so, the beast rises ever so often and throws his pregnant wife down the stairs, holds the hot iron against her face and covers her body with black and blue bruises, whenever she dares to question his wild ways.
And when she is sufficiently provoked, she simply lights up his bed and ends up in the unfriendly prison environs. Ironically, it is here that the simpleton finds her first true friends, her voice, her identity and her freedom.
The story is powerful, yes, but the passion and the pain finds articulation through Aishwarya's sensitive rendition of the protagonist. She is ably assisted by her videshi co-stars and finds a sisterhood in Nandita Das and her gang of Asian activists.
What holds the story back is the narrative style, which depends too heavily on flashbacks and a slightly lethargic pace.
Watch it for Ash, de-glamourised and quite arty.

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