Friday, April 06, 2007

PROVOKED - sub-daytime TV drama

PROVOKED is a straightforward re-telling of the Kiranjit Ahluwalia case. Kiranjit was an Indian woman who was brought to England for an arranged marriage. She was convicted of murdering her abusive husband in the late 1980s. Because she had killed him two hours after he the latest occasion of domestic abuse, her lawyers could not argue that it was a matter of self-defence. At this point, the Southall Black Sisters - a non-profit support group for abused women - took up Kiranjit's case. They helped launch the appeal that established the British legal precedent of using "battered women's sydrome" as a defence.

The worthiness of the subject matter should not however detract from the fact that this is a poor-quality production. The abrupt cutting between scenes, the hackneyed dialogue, A R Rahman's melodramatic score and the pantomime characterisation and acting do not serve this important story well.

In the world of this film, people are either put-upon victims or evil villains. Kiranjit's husband is particularly one-dimensional, but the prison guards and rozzers are also thinly drawn. The acting is similarly unconvincing. A host of British day-time TV "stars" play versions of their TV characters. So "Phil" from Eastenders is back as a Nasty cop, and "Ash Ferreira" is back as a nice but rather anonymous lawyer. Rebecca Pidgeon, Robbie Coltrane and Miranda Richardson are all decent actors, of course, but the first two have little more than cameos and the the third inhabits a character so unlikely in a story-line so schmaltzy as to be literally incredible. And what of Aishwarya Rai in the starring role? She simpers. And simpers some more. The audience has no glimpse of the emotional life a woman who was driven to brutally kill her husband.

PROVOKED is on release in the UK.

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