There are plenty of social issues in India that could be discussed at length. Movies based on these issues usually make a worthy watch. Take Udta Punjab, for example, which spoke about the rampant drug abuse in some of the northern states of India. Because of its core issue, the movie became a big deal. Similarly, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, PK, Chak De! India, Queen and many such movies also brought existing stereotypes in Indian society to light. But these are only the mainstream movies. Even small time filmmakers touch upon various issues, but do not have the budget to cast a superstar or promote it all over the country. Hence, they remain unknown. Pinky Beauty Parlor by Akshay Singh is one such movie. The film may not be widely popular in our country but was screened for audiences at Cannes, IFFI and MAMI.
Pinky Beauty Parlour talks about the racist beauty standards in India. ‘Fair is beautiful and dark is ugly’ is a mindset etched even in the most urbanized and literate societies. Set in Benaras, Pinky Beauty Parlor discusses these stereotypes with two protagonists – sisters Bulbul (Khusboo Gupta) and Pinky (Sulagna Panigrahi). While Pinky is fair and thus considered pretty, Bulbul has a darker skin tone. Since childhood, Bulbul is used to the taunts of her family, friends and neighbors on how Pinky and she do not look like sisters, as she is not pretty enough. Now in her 30s, Bulbul is used to the comments, yet finds them hurtful. But when Dulal (Akshay Singh), a driver for their parlor, calls her pretty, Bulbul is suddenly overwhelmed and falls for him. Things turn worse when Pinky returns from Delhi and falls for Dulal too. Between Pinky and Bulbul, there’s no surprise as to who would get the guy. Then Bulbul does something, which is not unheard of in this country, where beauty is considered to be a woman’s best asset.
Pun intended, Pinky Beauty Parlor is fairly amusing. The characters may not mean to be funny, but their behavior will certainly crack you up. The supporting actors are meant for comic relief amidst the dark and twisted plot. The film also deals with relationships, violence, suicide, and, to an extent, police brutality. These facets are blended in with various emotions and picturesque shots of Benaras to make the movie more engaging and entertaining. Yet, the film does not stray from its cause. The use of small-town characters also helps reinforce the stereotype, but as the film ends and case studies flash across the screen, you realize that the issue exists all over the country. The film is entertaining, but also thought-provoking, making it ideal even for the masala-loving Indian audience.