Based on the real life traumatic story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia and inspired by her biography ‘Circle of Light’ by Rahila Gupta, Jagmohan Mundhra’s ‘Provoked’ traces the anguish and agony of a Punjabi housewife. It transcends language in it that, in spite of a mostly Indian cast the movie employs English as its medium. Flashbacks and present situation is entwined leaving a long lasting impact on its viewers.
Unable to bear the constant brutality of her alcoholic husband Deepak Ahluwalia, Kiranjit decides to end their abusive 10 year marriage by setting fire to him. However his death does not free her from the law. She is charged with murder, sentenced to life in prison. Yet Kiranjit finds liberation in jail and seeks solace in her cellmate, Veronica Scott.
Just when the curtains seem to fall, a non-profit group of Asian social workers running under an organization called Southall Black Sisters takes up her case. They shed light on her plight by organizing rallies and gathering public support. Veronica encourages Kiranjit to go to court. Veronica’s brother, Lord Edward Foster, is a respected Queen’s Counsel. He takes up the case in the English court. The final judgment pardons the accused and redefines the word ‘Provocation’ in the British law forever.
Wife-beating is not a new concept but ‘Provoked’ sheds new light on it. The strength of the film lies in the power and precision in which the story is told. Mundhra sticks to the plot without overloading the scenes with melodrama.
The direction binds with the theme.
The film flows with the idiom that, though the protagonist is a timid and traditional Punjabi woman living in the shadows of her tyrannical husband, even a worm will turn. Pushed to the edge, she approaches her sleeping husband and torches his bed. Her intention was not to kill him but only to burn his feet so that he wouldn’t be able to chase her.
Armed with a powerful script, Mandhra had selected his cast well. Luminous Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai fits into the role of the coy Kiranjit beautifully. Minimal make up had enhanced her beauty. Her innocence moves the audience. She infuses life into the film by her expressive eyes and Punjabi dialogues.
Naveen Andrews does a brilliant job as the disturbed husband. You immediately feel the wrong vibes in his character from the word go. Nandita Das plays her character well but overacts slightly in a few instances. The ending is a bit disappointing because we see Kiranjit’s supporters cheering her victory in the fashion of a typical Hindi movie.
This is probably the fatal point in the film which embodies such powerful substance.
Provoked holds all that it takes to make a successful movie but the finale does not embody the sensitivity.
It lacks the hard-hitting impact which makes us wonder if Kiranjit would have been better off walking out of the marriage rather than seeking justice after being prompted into action.