There's something about watching actor Farhan Akhtar placed in a non-suave/urbane environment such as in this film, where he shares an Old Delhi dwelling with a large family (parents, wife, child, etc), being a (naturally) rustic bloke, as would suit a Chandni Chowk upbringing/neighbourhood.
Earnest as he may well be for a part such as this, it's hard to tell whether, by his presence alone, he's simply mocking the world he's been thrown into — without quite meaning to, of course. Because try hard as you may, he so doesn't look the street-Dilliwallah.
Which is how The Sky Is Pink starts off. And in fact gets to the point so quickly that you wonder what's left to watch, when the fact that a little girl, just born, suffers from a terminal illness, is told to you in the opening scenes itself. Much before the parents' characters (Farhan, Priyanka Chopra) have been developed at all — for you to feel any empathy for them. Given the news will shatter them, through and through.
Also, knowing so early on that the film is essentially about death dubs it as queasily exploitative in an obvious sort of way. For, who's not likely to be moved by scenes of death, and that too of a little child?
For one, this isn't so much a film about death, as it is about life. Especially how we would live it for ourselves, and for others, if we knew exactly how much time we had in hand. Would that pre-knowledge change the course? Probably; no, definitely!
Sooner or later, we will all lose our loved ones. Or they will lose us. This movie is also about dealing with grief, and as the popular Banksy quote/graffiti goes, "They say you die twice. One time, when you stop breathing. And a second time, a bit later on; when somebody says your name for the last time."
At the extreme fore, The Sky Is Pink (titled after there being no limits to what you make of the world) is about the resilience of parents, who move heaven and earth for the good of their children. They're naturally endowed with this selfless love, which I presume is also an extension of love for self.
The married couple here (Farhan, Priyanka) centre their whole life, work, and work-life balance on the terminally ill child they wish to provide the best possible future for — moving cities; crowd-sourcing funds for her treatment through a radio station; the works.
The film is based on a true story of teenager Aisha Chaudhary (all names in the script unchanged), who battled a fatal, immuno-deficiency disease (SCID), and yet found within a relatively short span every joy and art that life must afford all. Most significantly, a sense of humour and a deep/profound understanding of life itself, that eludes most.
Zaira Wasim —the wonder-kid from Dangal, Secret Superstar — plays this little girl. Never mind her body-language, or the ease in her expressions, her very being on-screen resonates with audiences in ways that's hard to explain. I'm told this is her last work as an actor. Which is a monumental loss. I'm pretty sure, at some point later as an adult, she'll rise again like that (former child-star, Joaquin) Phoenix, who once similarly quit movies at an early stage (under different, but tragic circumstances), to make a comeback that we're still reeling under.
Taking off from the lead character's condition, the screenplay smartly plays with structure to dive us deeper and deeper into the characters and circumstances on screen — rather than simply a plot. And what you emerge from is an astonishingly personal story, navigating through dark spaces, yes; but with reasonable hope, and incredible insight.
This is only possible when the writer-director (Shonali Bose; Amu, Margarita With A Straw) is so personally invested in the subject that it stops becoming about exploitation, or (movie) manipulations, or even the story/family the film's based on. It seems like an emotion that the filmmaker's probably been through, and so wants the world to know. And ponder over. It just stops being just a movie then.
You have to give it to heavyweight Bollywood producers backing this heartbreakingly intimate subject, and the top stars — particularly Priyanka, in top-form, as the ferociously indefatigable tigress for a mom — mainstreaming this delicate script into a picture you've got to warm theatre-seats for. And no, Farhan isn't miscast at all. His character's life pans out far beyond Chandni Chowk thereafter! Perfect.