BOOK EXCERPT

‘Pink’ revisited: The anatomy of the ‘No means no’ scene, and the original ending

Excerpts from a book about the making of the acclaimed legal drama, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, produced by Shoojit Sircar and written by Ritesh Shah.

On the first day, Avik Mukhopadhyay placed four cameras which captured nearly the entire set and almost every actor, from the principal cast to the extras, from one axis or the other. Most of the sequences were okayed in a single take thanks to the intense rehearsing that preceded filming. The presence of multiple cameras ensured that the reactions to the lines were more organic. As the shooting of this sequence proceeded, Sircar also increased the number of cameras, going up to six and even eight on occasions. ‘The thing is that no one knows where the camera is or what the magnification is,’ says Sircar, which ensured every actor was physically and emotionally committed the entire time the cameras were rolling.

Sircar wanted a brief but unscripted reaction from Bachchan at the end to bring the relationship between Deepak Sehgal and the three women, specifically Minal, full circle. He told Taapsee Pannu to hold Amitabh Bachchan’s hand when he sits down after his closing lines but did not inform Bachchan, keeping only Pannu and Mukhopadhyay in the know. ‘I told her, “See what you can do,” and even though Mr Bachchan didn’t know, he went with the flow,’ recalls Sircar. He feels the gesture emotionally drained Bachchan, who had kept Sehgal’s inner momentum pent up till the very end.

One of the major reasons for such a catharsis for the characters as well as the actors portraying them could be Deepak Sehgal’s final lines that not only summed up the case but also the film. It is this portion that contains the line, ‘No means no’, which became the simple yet effective message that would eventually resonate with the audiences. The line, however, nearly did not make it to the film. Once the long ‘interrogation’ scene with Taapsee Pannu was filmed, Amitabh Bachchan felt no need to make a long speech for his closing statements. Shah remembers the actor telling him, ‘Bhai, sab kuch to main bol chuka hoon (I have already said everything). He said, “I will just say “No” and sit down.”’ This was also the draft with which the crew went to shoot the scene, but Shah had something else in mind. ‘Someone had sent me an image on Facebook of a coffee mug that had the line “No is a complete sentence” written on it,’ says Shah. Intrigued by it, he remembers saving the image on his mobile phone. As the climax of the courtroom was approaching, Shah visited the set and, mentioning the image, told Sircar, Roy Chowdhury and Bachchan that he wanted to write six or eight lines around the theme. ‘The only concern that Mr Bachchan had was whether the lines would be as effective in Hindi but I said let me try,’ says Shah. Both Sircar and Roy Chowdhury liked the lines that Shah had written and even Bachchan agreed that it made sense to say them. ‘Being the gracious actor that he is, Mr Bachchan never said, “I won’t say it because I had decided that main nahin boloonga…”, says Shah and adds, ‘Sometimes things happen by pure chance and the desire for expression.’

Shah has since thanked many people for sending him the image that inspired him, including writer Anuradha Tiwari, but no one has claimed ownership of the line yet. For Sircar, this was the dialogue that packed it all in and he was happy to see the reaction that came his way from the lawyers that he consulted. ‘They said, “Yaar, bol do! Hum thak gaye bol bol ke (Just say it! We are tired of saying it again and again).”’

This is also where, for Roy Chowdhury, Bachchan’s prowess as an actor and a star made itself felt most strongly. Roy Chowdhury credits him for breaking down the concept of consent to its simplest form for the benefit of male viewers, most of whom, unfortunately, do not comprehend it. Some critics and commentators would later question the way in which the film addressed consent but Roy Chowdhury remembers how some of his friends’ children, specifically boys, called him up to say that they learnt something. ‘I knew people would love it,’ says Roy Chowdhury and reiterates, ‘we shouldn’t deny that words like “Na sirf ek shabd nahi, apne aap mein ek poora vakya hai (no is not just a word, but a full sentence in and of itself)” can spread like wildfire when someone like Mr Bachchan delivers it.’

Play
Pink (2016).

Originally, the ending of the film had the judgment going in favour of Rajvir, being in sync with real-life outcomes in similar cases. Sircar also believed that for the film to be authentic, the judgment going against the women would make people introspect, which was his intended goal. But, as the principal photography wrapped up, he began to wonder whether the statement he was hoping Pink would make about women empowerment would be diluted if in the end Rajvir, in a sense, walked away.

Just before the shooting began, there was a reading session at Amitabh Bachchan’s house where Shah recalls it was unanimously agreed that what could happen in a real court would be different from the typical ‘filmy’ scenario where an Amitabh Bachchan comes and wins the case. ‘In a real court, it could swing either way,’ says Shah and asserts that it’s the strength of the argument as well as the evidence that impact the outcome. When Shah left for Delhi, he asked his wife, Saba, to give the draft a read as he wanted an opinion. ‘Even Shoojit said there needed to be a female perspective apart from the cast.’ Saba called Shah in Delhi almost immediately and without mincing words told her husband to tell Sircar that he was making a very big mistake with the ending. ‘She would call me every three or four days and ask, “What is the ending?”

’ Shah updated Sircar and Roy Chowdhury with Saba’s feedback, which essentially suggested that the narrative provides a sense of elation as the three women fight insurmountable odds, but the end was like throwing a bucket of ice cold water on the audience. By the time Shah returned from Delhi, the seed of doubt had been firmly planted in his mind and when Saba told him that, as a viewer, she felt as much for Deepak Sehgal’s struggle as she did for Minal, Falak and Andrea’s trials, he knew that it was time to reconsider the finale. Sircar continued to feel that even if they lost the case, it would instill a sense of optimism and sought the opinions of others. Like Sircar, Roy Chowdhury, too, was fine with retaining the original ending as it was somewhat philosophical and he liked the way it was written. Most of the cast, including Amitabh Bachchan, was okay with the original ending but Sircar could not get himself to commit either way. He felt that Pink, with its realistic ending, would be a strong indictment of everything that was wrong in our society’s response to violence against women, in keeping with real-life instances where women are forced into leading a silent, often stigmatized, life after pursuing legal action. At the same time, the visual depiction of three women standing by each other no matter what would also leave a strong impression.

It was towards the very end of the filming of the courtroom scenes that Sircar finally convinced himself that a ruling in the women’s favour might make a stronger statement. ‘I changed it on the day of the shoot,’ says Sircar, deciding to leave the judgment open but against the perpetrators. He told Shah, ‘Let’s not make it a big victory but it should be positive … optimistic.’

Excerpted with permission from PINK The Inside Story, Gautam Chintamani, HarperCollins India.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.