There is always a guaranteed frisson of excitement anytime two talented female actors are on screen and Gulaab Gang (GG) does not fail in this respect. Just take the first time Madhuri and Juhi meet on screen to see the power this film has in its hands; carefully creating a delightful cat and mouse power play which is steered carefully and is satisfying to watch. Sadly, it seems power corrupts or in this case overwhelms the weak screenplay so that what should have been an edge of the seat political thriller becomes an everything to everyone vehicle which ultimately ends up pleasing no one.
This is a shame as GG could have been so much more – from illiteracy to corruption, there is a huge range of subjects that are skimmed over and one wishes the screenplay had either picked one area and explored it fully or better still, entirely focused on Rajjo and Sumitra’s respective journeys as these are two formidable characters who are at once similar and different. It has to be said, the better parts of the film are when out of nowhere, everything comes together and hits the right chord. Sadly, the songs and action seem out of place with the former jarring the momentum and the latter more a concession to what the screenplay supposes the box office wants.
In terms of performance, I felt Madhuri was disconnected from Rajjo – though she is perfunctory and gives great dialogue delivery, it is only in the physical scenes like dancing and fighting where Madhuri really becomes at one with Rajjo. Meanwhile, Juhi delivers a career best as the politician who has nothing to redeem her heartless actions but thanks to Juhi’s controlled account, is very watchable and even adds an element of likeability with a determined and rather persuasive effort. Both also excel in joint scenes where the energy is off the charts – if only the director had been able to contain and channel this, GG would have been a classic.
Even though GG misses the mark, it has a spirit and intent that is to be applauded and encouraged – we need more films like this with interesting female protagonists who do not need a hero in the film to validate their intentions or journeys and give scope for entertainment and inspiration. Furthermore, bringing Madhuri and Juhi together in one film is one pairing which still needs plenty more exploring and hopefully will pave the way for lots more actress collaborations which in turn will lead to some very watchable films being made. Not to be dismissed outright, give GG a watch in support of the tide turning for a new and interesting chapter in Hindi cinema.