The Sky is Pink
Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim, Rohit Saraf
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A tighter edit and perhaps a little less fragmentation might have made it the film it wants to be.
At one point in writer/director Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink, a distraught mother (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) ties her personal wish tag onto a communal wishing tree, reminding the fates that her ailing daughter’s name is Aisha – ‘she who lives’. Aisha’s life is shown as a constant struggle from birth since she has inherited SCID – a rare disorder which makes her susceptible to life threatening infections.
The film is based on the true story of Aisha Chaudhary (Zaira Wasim) – an author and motivational speaker, who died at the age of 18 from complications caused by a bone marrow transplant. Bose’s previous film Margarita with a Straw (2014) was also about adapting to chronic illness, parents who strive to establish normalcy, and the effects of grief. The rosy titles of these films are a nod to her positive treatment of depressing material. Both films are dedicated to Bose’s own son, Ishan, who died in a car accident at the age of 16.
The lead actors – Zaira Wasim, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar are all primarily connected with the Hindi commercial film industry (Bollywood), as is the musical composer Pritam. This film, however, is indie in its orientation. The treatment of the songs is modern and understated. Vignettes of family life, celebration or romance are montaged to appear quite natural (as opposed to choreographed and staged). The mise en scene is natural although it extends to glamorous realism when the family’s wealth increases.
Although Priyanka Chopra Jonas gives a grounded performance, it is difficult to disassociate her from the diva of her filmography. Farhan Akhtar as Aisha’s father disappears more convincingly into his role. Zaira Wasim is the soul of the film even though it is primarily focused on Aisha’s parents, who facilitate her beautiful albeit short, life.
In both the Sky is Pink and Margarita with a Straw the main characters are well off financially. This makes it easier for the filmmakers to concentrate on emotions, since day-to-day economic survival isn’t an issue[i] and life enhancing trips abroad are an option. In their poorer days, the parents are unable to afford their daughter’s treatment but that obstacle is quite simply, and perhaps too conveniently, surmounted. Emotional trajectories are salient with lots of chronological breaks covering a 25-year period – juxtaposing scenes of Aisha’s dark, empty bed in the present with shots of the parents’ sunny love affair; the trauma of treatment with the joys of family life.
The narrator is Aisha who, as a motivational coach, is not sorry for herself, for her family or for us. (‘We all have to die some time.’) The narration, written by award winning Juhi Chaturvedi (Vicky Donor, Piku) and Nilesh Maniyar, capture a wry humor which, combined with Bose’s innate understanding of adolescence, make for an endearing character. The film does get melodramatic towards the end but relative to other Hindi films, it’s not overly sentimental given the real-life material.
A team of non-Indian producers is credited which points to the fact that the film is targeting festivals and an international audience. Aisha’s brother (Rohit Saraf) is not given enough attention to justify his many brief appearances. The songs – although pleasant, just add unnecessarily to the film’s length. A tighter edit and perhaps a little less fragmentation might have made it the film it wants to be.