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Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ dry wit – “By the way I’m dead, get over it!” – is the heart-and-soul of the Hindi family drama The Sky Is Pink that celebrates death in a humorously profound tale.
The movie is inspired by the life of an Indian teenager, Aisha Chaudhary, born with a rare immune deficiency disorder. It is the sincere story of a couple – Aditi (Chopra) and Niren (Farhan Akhtar), and their plucky teenage daughter – Aisha (Zaira Wasim), who was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The protagonist Aisha narrates the story of her own death in Billy Wilder’s classic Sunset Boulevard spirit from beyond the grave – a gutsy deadpan tone, cheekily remarking on her parents’ intimacy.
Although Aditi and Niren have a healthy son Ishaan, they lost their first child, who was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare genetic disorder.
Aisha inherits the same genetic disorder. Determining her chances will be better; Moose and Panda (as Aisha calls her mum and dad respectively) pursue treatments far away in London. They cannot cease or delay the ultimate tragedy – her death from Pulmonary Fibrosis, which was a side-effect of her treatment for SCID. However, they enjoy her short life with as much happiness as they can possibly find.
Director Shonali Bose with her writing team Nilesh Maniyar (Margarita With A Straw), and Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku, October), span over two decades across two countries – right from the couple’s romance in the heart of Old Delhi’s cheek-by-jowl Chandni Chowk roofs in 1987 and their struggle per square foot in 90’s London to a splendid lifestyle in New Delhi from 2008 to 2015 – in both flashback and flash forward forms. Bose’s nonlinear narrative is clever and doesn’t always spoon-feed the audience with date and locations for every single transition. Audience, please pay attention.
Yet, the screenplay distracts a bit making some early funny scenes inapt, unnecessary and lengthy while the most crucial emotional scenes are quick and less moving. The final scene at the farewell party is cinematic but fails to capture a family’s inconsolable loss.
Priyanka yet again makes an impact in her role of several shades of the same woman (like 7 Khoon Maaf). She is appealing and jealous as a lover, adoring and paranoid as a mother. The Dangal girl Wasim as the late daughter brings life and pink to the sky. Akhtar is an observer and absolutely believable in his less powerful role than Priyanka as the concerned but courageous father. The elder brother, Rohit Saraf, the weakest part of the entire cast in the film, does well in his limited screen space.
Unlike the recent films of the same theme like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or The Fault in Our Stars, Bose focuses on the parents rather than the patient.
Her last film Netpac-winner Margarita with a Straw was also about a family dealing with the daughter’s cerebral palsy. Keeping its same hilarious and touching spirit in the latest glossy follow up, The Sky is Pink is more entertaining but less enlightening.