If you are looking forward to watching Madhuri Dixit face off with Juhi Chawala in Gulaab Gang on March 7, be sure to first see the reality behind the fiction. The documentary, Gulabi Gang is a record of an extraordinary women’s movement started by the extraordinary Sampat Pal Devi in Uttar Pradesh in 2006. The gang comprises of women vigilantes who wear pink saris and wield sticks. They find strength in numbers and fight against abusive husbands, corrupt politicians and police. We are told the gang has 150,000 members.
Director Nishtha Jain offers us a front row seat to India’s heart of darkness. Here a girl can be married at 11 and burned to death at 15. Women, even those strong enough to be part of the Gulabi Gang, support honor killings. The parents of murdered girls shrug, take money in exchange for silence and life goes on. Except that Sampat Pal makes sure that it doesn’t.
Sampat Pal is remarkable for her strength and courage but Jain also captures the contradictions in this revolution. Pal has power. People touch her feet. She can get things done - in places, she seems like a don. But what she has wrought is incredible and inspiring.
Gulabi Gang is a fascinating portrait of the power of one. I’m going with three and a half stars.