Despite the number of words that keep getting added to the dictionary every year, language experts still have to come up with a word for parents who’ve lost their children.
Perhaps because the pain of losing a child is too expansive, emotional, hurtful, and powerful to be captured in a single word. It’s this pain, the feeling of loss and the acceptance of grief, that gets wonderfully expressed in Shonali Bose’s biographical drama, The Sky Is Pink.
Starring Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra in the lead roles, the film is based on the life of inspirational speaker and author Aisha Chaudhary and her family.
Aisha was born with an auto-immune deficiency, that brought her face-to-face with death at a very young age. However, though she beat death once, she developed pulmonary fibrosis as a teenager – and ultimately lost her life at the age of 18. She spent years with the knowledge that she will not have a long life to live, and yet, continued to live her life spreading happiness.
An inspiring and heartbreaking story is translated into a moving tale of love, family, and tearjerking moments in The Sky Is Pink.
Farhan and Priyanka play the role of ‘Panda’ and ‘Moose’, aka Niren and Aditi Chaudhary – Aisha’s parents and the force(s) of strength that helped her live a thousand moments in a life counted by the minutes.
Rohit Suresh Saraf plays the role of Aisha’s elder brother, who she lovingly refers to as Giraffe. And Zaira Wasim reprises the role of Aisha herself.
The film may come across as the story of how a family copes with such a heartbreaking tragedy. But, the movie is also a love story – one that shows how a couple lives through the greatest tragedy of their lives, preparing for the loss of their child.
As Aditi Chaudhary, Priyanka is a force of nature – who dedicates every second of her life to her child. Aditi converts to Christianity after the death of her second child and first daughter, Tania. And when Aisha is diagnosed with an immunity deficiency, saving her daughter becomes the sole purpose of her life.
Niren is the person who centers the storm that is Aditi. He is just as ardent as Aditi in fighting for the life of his daughter, but the way he processes information and grief is diametrically opposite from Aditi.
Where she hordes up on information, wary of making a single wrong decision, he believes in letting the doctors do their job. Where she pushes the publishers to share a copy of Aisha’s novel before she breathes her last, he holds his daughter’s hand through the ordeal.
Both Farhan and Priyanka wonderfully balance the act – because it is a precarious balance. After all, you’re controlling a delicate life – the same life you gave birth to. This knowledge is what allows you, as the audience, to make room for some of the flaws in the story. Because, unless you’re a parent living through this experience, you can’t pass judgements on their parenting or partnership.
Shonali Bose ensures that the story does not fall under the weight of two leading actors, who are superstars in their own right. Rather, their characters are developed in a way that allows the audience to fall for the story, not the couple.
The movie develops Aisha and Ishaan’s sibling bond too. In a heartbreaking moment, Aisha–who appears as a source of strength to the whole family–calls her brother and breaks down. That’s the only moment you see her get scared of the impending death – and her brother calms her down. Only to cut the call and express his own anguish.
And this duality – of consoling a person, but at the same time, dealing with your own grief – is in fact, the central theme of the film. Through an array of topics (abortion, cost of medical treatments, ways of processing grief), the film builds to the ultimate climax – one you’re aware of from the second the film starts. And yet that moment leaves you wiping tears.
The film also constantly moves between serious situations and moments of comedic relief. It could be jarring, but the colloquial dialogues and interesting narration save the transition from becoming too abrupt. The songs too, aided by Gulzar’s lyrics, serve the purpose of taking the story forward.
The movie shows a journey, a life lived in the preparation of death. It’s a life where, as Aisha puts it, ‘pockets of joy’ had to be created – because the luxury of time was not afforded to her. Very rarely has Hindi cinema presented grief as a living, breathing entity. But The Sky Is Pink does a wonderful job of showcasing grief in its raw, multi-hued form – it’s no longer just black-and-white.
All images from the trailer, unless specified otherwise.