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.

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

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For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.