Pain is not to be discriminated against, but it must be harder if you are a parent and that forlorn space happens to be left behind by your teenage daughter.
The Sky is Pink confronts this harsh truth but refuses to confine those hit by it in a vacuum of loss.
Instead, an upbeat voiceover by the deceased child tells us not to burden ourselves with her preordained departure and focus on the two people responsible for bringing her into the world and how they grew solid in their marriage together despite the storms.
The lightness is uplifting without undermining the melancholy of the reality it’s recounting through the eyes and spirit of a life cut short. The upshot is a pocketful of smiles, a whole lot of tears and an all-important reminder that the glass is half full.
Not only is Director Shonali Bose familiar with the nature of such loss but her film is a tribute to the family who lived through every second of it.
Motivational speaker and author of My Little Epiphanies, Aisha Chaudhary was only 18 when she passed away. Remarkably enough, she was ready for it. If you’ve heard her speak, you’ll see she had made her peace with it.
At a time when there was little hope of survival, the efforts of her parents and generosity of altruists extended her lifespan significantly. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to protect her from the evils of medical side-effects, namely pulmonary fibrosis, further debilitating her condition beyond cure.
What is inspiring though how Bose doesn’t define Aisha by her illness but her gratitude-filled spirit that treasures every bit of her ‘Moose’ mom Aditi (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and ‘Panda’ dad Niren’s (Farhan Akhtar) determination and confidence in her survival.
They are the heroes of her story as well as The Sky is Pink‘s.
Sickness may be at the centre of the Chaudhary household, but the sun still shines every single day. Against its scattered chronology, scripted by Bose and Nilesh Maniyar, Aisha (Zaira Wasim) lets us into her world while taking jibes at her parents’ sex life, which looks pretty lively, despite her suspicions. Things are, of course, more complicated than carefree.
Aditi and Niren’s journey from the crammed neighbourhoods of Chandni Chowk to stuffy corners of London in a bid to procure the best medical care for their ailing kid, the struggle of raising a sick baby in a foreign land, the difficulty of long-distance marriage and motherhood, slogging at work hard enough to afford sprawling farmhouses in posh Delhi localities in the future, The Sky is Pink is running on a hectic schedule.
Often, Aisha’s information-loaded narrator is burdened by the duel task of sounding witty and descriptive.
Flashback squeezed within flashback, we learn about her parents’ inter-caste marriage, mom’s religious conversion, feelings on abortion and comical courtship episodes.
The pleasing whistle-accordion background score, gently framed moments of affection and banter paint their adversity in rose-tinted hues. Except there’s a design in such sunny depiction.
Bose makes a better case for life goes on, when she allows the strains to show in Aditi-Niren’s marriage in all their major and minor conflicts, where the fights always hit home harder than the making-up.
Be it the face off on the streets over a paternity test goof up, a no hold barred altercation inside a hotel bathroom or disagreement over medical procedures, what you respond to is relationship not role playing.
Humour is a great weapon against misery.
There’s a sweet scene — which shows the couple’s strength in the most unassuming way — of them lying in bed at night and coming up with various absurd ways to get rich like two people do when things are utterly hopeless.
This hunger to do well is a window to their tenacity. Under 149 minutes, Bose wants to cram in every tiny deal about her subjects — from Aditi-Niren’s firstborn, their younger son Ishaan and his immigrant woes, Aditi’s guilt about staying away from him to the couple’s extreme jealousies and Aisha’s romantic pangs.
This is when Bose jumps a decade to document Aisha’s teenage years and further lapse in health.
Only now, it involves Aditi too.
Ensuring her daughter has all possible experiences in whatever time left — romantic suitors, a published book and scuba diving in Andaman and Nicobar — takes its toll on the super mom’s health.
Priyanka portrays a lifetime in a flash. Headstrong without getting dramatic, sympathetic but not smothering, a spectrum of emotions is showcased in her fiery performance. The blazing command and conviction in her voice, eyes, body language, the minutest of expression she brings out in Aditi as she follows her heart and head is to be seen to believe.
You must watch The Sky is Pink just for her prowess. It peaks and how in the phone booth scene where she comforts her sobbing school-going son in India by encouraging him to colour his sky any shade he wants, it’s his right and nobody can dare take it away from him.
As her milder, mellower better half, Farhan Akhtar’s relaxed disposition is well suited to convey his character’s gently building exasperation and suffering. He’s a lot stronger than he lets on through his less is more approach.
Zaira Wasim is quite a formidable talent. Too bad Aisha is her swan song off screen too. Ever a natural, she infuses heft and humour whether she’s joking how ‘Sonia naam mein hi itna oomph hai, prime minister hil jaate hain‘, parodying Aamir Khan’s words of wisdom to her in Secret Superstar or making the most heart-breaking phone call to her brother.
As the said sibling, Rohit Saraf is absolutely winsome in his simplicity and support.
The Sky is Pink wears its gloss like a badge of cheer. The ageing is superficial and Bose takes care to make sure nobody looks punished. But there’s a tendency to romanticise Aisha’s illness by overdoing the acceptance. There’s only a fleeting glimpse of her distinction as a motivational speaker which could have corroborated it credibly.
A regular teenage life lost to follow a strictly sanitised, sterilised existence with hovering parents and guarded friends never fully comes into play. Considering the story is told from Aisha’s point of view, it’s intriguing how much she sidelines her own feelings to share her parents’ in detail. If only Bose would show faith in her audience’s sensitivity and refrain from the maudlin last words that is the staple of generic tearjerkers.
Can’t it be heartfelt until spelled out? Rather than allow us to feel things on our own, it tells us when to cry. These are the few times when the sky is more planned than pink.