There can be no greater grief for a parent than the loss of his or her child. Shonali Bose, who had earlier directed ‘Amu’ (2005) and ‘Margarita With A Straw’ (2014) earlier, has made a film on the aforementioned subject. The film is called ‘The Sky Is Pink’ and features Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim and Rohit Saraf in principal roles. Shonali, who is married to filmmaker Bedabrata Pain (‘Chittagong’), lost her elder son Ishaan in an accident in 2009. This film, however, is not based on her life but on the life of Aisha Chaudhary and her family. Aisha was a motivational speaker who lost her life at the age of 15 due to pulmonary fibrosis. This incident happened in 2015 and so inspired was Shonali by Aisha’s story that she decided to make a film out of it.
Aditi (Priyanka Chopra) discovers that she is pregnant. When she breaks the news to husband Niren (Farhan Akhtar), he is worried. Apart from the fact that they had not planned on having a second child now, there is something else that concerns him. A girl, whom they had named Tanya, was born to Aisha a couple of years after they had their first child, son Ishaan. Tanya suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, owing to a rare defect in the genes of her parents and passes away shortly after she took birth. Niren is concerned that if they have another child, there is a chance of it suffering from the same disease. Aditi had recently converted to Christian and now, more than ever before, she firmly believes that aborting a child is no less than a sin. Soon enough, Aisha (Zaira Wasim) comes into their lives. Niren and Aditi’s fears com true when she is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis during her first year of birth.
From the onset, Aisha’s voice-over makes the audience aware of the fact of her eventual fate. Now, what remains for us to see the kind of journey the family goes through as Aisha slowly walks towards the end of her life. Shonali Bose, who has also written the script (Hindi dialogues are by Juhi Chaturvedi and Nilesh Maniyar), sets the tone for the story and gives you an inkling of what to expect from the narrative in first few minutes of the film itself. As the family gets to know about Aisha’s condition in the first few reels of the film, to ensure that the film does not get too depressing or emotionally consuming, Shonali makes a conscious choice to have the narrative move back and forth between the past and the present. We get to see how Niren and Aditi’s romance took shape, the tender moments shared between them in the younger days in the flashback portions. The present story, too, has humourous and light-hearted moments in abundance. This scenes help ease the inherent tension in the story at various points in the narrative.
There are several scenes in the film that tug at your heartstrings. But, are those enough in number? Do they all come together in telling a story that stays with you long after the end credits stop rolling? Speaking of end credits, we get to see a bunch of clips of the real Aisha Chaudhari and her family in the final reels of the film. Those images, actually, turn out to be more effective than the feature film presented to one here. While one does understand the fact that this is the story of a modern family in India and the director has tried to show them dealing with the grief and the situation at hand in unconventional ways but the problem is that a lot of those moments come across as the kind wherein the director has put in too much effort to make it look sentimental, heart-warming or just cute. The fort shows and that is the reason a few of these scenes come across as superficial and fail to make the necessary impact. The first half has quite a slow pace to it and there are a couple of scenes that could have been done away with. The second half, inarguably, makes a far more lasting impact. The penultimate moments of the film have been handled well. As stated earlier, the footage of the real Aisha and her family is very impactful and will leave you teary-eyed.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas, in her first Hindi, big-screen outing in more than three years, gets to play an author-backed role and she does complete justice to it. Matching her performance note-by-note is Farhan Akhtar who also lends a good amount of charm to the younger version of his character. Zaira Wasim is terrific as Aisha; she brings the right mix of innocence, vulnerability, sensitivity and (teenage) angst to her character. Rohit Saraf looks every bit the older child of the household who is expected to be more responsible than his requires him to be as the family goes through the crisis. His performance is top-notch. Most of the actors playing supporting parts get limited scope. Ishan Jotshi leaves a mark as Karan. Gurpal Singh brings in a good dose of humour as RJ Arjun Singh.
‘The Sky Is Pink’ is an emotionally moving film but only in parts. From a story of this nature and the kind of films the director had made in the past, one had expected a film that would stay true to the emotional depth of its source material. Shonali Bose tries to do incorporate too many elements in the film which rob the basic story of its inherent sensitivity and emotional strength. A few moments stand out. The film does not.