The Chaos of “Pink Saris” Reminds Women to Use Their Voices



Director Kim Longinotto provides a look into the lives of India’s lowest caste of women, the untouchables, in her 2010 documentary film “Pink Saris.” Sampat Pal Devi is a local activist who refuses to be silent and works to protect young women.  With the help of the Gulabi Gang, untouchables who don Pink Saris, Sampat Pal publicly confronts men who have long considered women in their culture little more than property.  Sampat Pal, like many other very young girls in India, married into a family where she worked hard, but was often beaten. Defying the strict cultural norms Sampat Pal seeks her own life partner who is educated and from a higher caste.  Unable to marry him, as she is still married, they cohabitate instead and keep their doors open to any young woman seeking help.

Her partner’s education plays a key role in her ability to help the young women. Any action needed that doesn’t require reading and writing Sampat Pal completes with brute verbal force and intimidation. She’s a complicated character. We see how sometimes she appears to sacrifice her ideals to maintain her own position of influence over others. We also see how women’s struggles on the other side of the world aren’t that much different than they are here:  Did the kids do their homework? Do we have money to pay the gas bill? Add in the lack of running water and no apparent means of earning a living it is easy to see why Sampat Pal has started to use her voice to promote the radical ideas of men taking responsibility for their actions and women having a choice over who they marry.

This film appears raw and honest, with the footage seeming to have little editing.  This allows the audience to experience the disconcerting despair and chaos that these young women feel as their lives seep outside the boundaries of their predetermined destinies.

Because of affordable technology available on the consumer market it is not unusual to find HD home movie footage cut in between work done by professional crews in today’s documentaries.  No flip cam video here.  Each shot is perfect, with a high def clarity that makes you feel a little gritty while you are watching it.  The beautiful intricate designs of the women’s saris are such a sharp contrast to the environments in which these women live. This film will remind women, no matter how they are dressed, to use their voices.  Watch it with your daughters and other young women in your lives.

Run Time 1 hour 36 minutes. Not Rated.

Grade B+

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