Domestic violence is a universal issue. PROVOKED borrows from a real-life incident -- a woman facing physical abuse and how she decides to put an end to it. For any real-life story to leave an indelible impression, it ought to be:-
[i] As hard-hitting as possible.
[ii] The outcome should have a profound effect.
Unfortunately, PROVOKED works in bits and spurts. As a story, your heart goes out to Kiranjit Ahluwalia, but as a film, sorry, PROVOKED is akin to a balloon with a leak.
Where does it slip? The screenplay isn't power-packed. The sequences between Ash and the cell-mate are interesting. So are the ones between Ash and her drunkard/philandering/abusive husband Naveen Andrews. But the drama doesn't work in entirety.
The problem with PROVOKED is its screenplay. It lacks the power to grab your attention. In a nutshell, PROVOKED may be a well-intentioned film, but it fails to make an impact.
Set in London, PROVOKED is the traumatic story of a battered Punjabi housewife and mother of two, Kiranjit Ahluwalia [Aishwarya Rai]. Unable to bear the brutality of her alcoholic husband Deepak Ahluwalia [Naveen Andrews], she takes revenge by setting him on fire. Charged with first-degree murder, she is sentenced to life imprisonment, where she befriends her cell-mate, a white woman named Veronica Scott [Miranda Richardson], from whom she learns English.
Her cell-mate is so moved by her story that she asks her step-brother Lord Edward Foster [Robbie Coltrane], a highly respected queen's counsel, to file her appeal. Her case comes to the notice of a motley group of South Asian social workers running an under-funded organization called Southall Black Sisters. They bring her plight to the attention of the media by organizing rallies to gather public support for her freedom.
She is ultimately freed by the judicial system in a landmark case and most importantly, reunited with her children.
Director Jagmohan Mundhra's choice of the subject is right, but PROVOKED lacks soul [a captivating drama]. The story had the ingredients to work as a cinematic interpretation, but the writers [Carl Austin, Rahila Gupta] haven't utilized the opportunity to the optimum. What you carry home are flashes, not the film in entirety. In fact, you don't feel euphoric when the protagonist is pronounced 'non-guilty' and is set free in the end. That's another flaw!
Besides, the narrative seems stretched at places. A few sequences come across as repetitive and are responsible for an unenthusiastic impact. Besides the writing, the execution of the material doesn't touch your heart or move you to tears.
Madhu Ambat's cinematography captures the mood of the film well. A.R. Rahman's background score is appropriate.
The one aspect that's absolutely flawless is the choice of the actor enacting the role of the protagonist -- Aishwarya Rai. Stunning is the word that has often been used for this ethereal beauty, but for a change, you want to use this word for her performance in this film. Her work in PROVOKED easily ranks amongst her best.
Naveen Andrews leaves a mark, but there was scope to develop his character better. Miranda Richardson is topnotch. Nandita Das doesn't work. Rebecca Pidgeon is okay, while Robbie Coltraine is effective.
On the whole, PROVOKED rests on a lackluster screenplay and that's its biggest flaw. At the box-office, the film might appeal to a tiny section of audience, but even they wouldn't take to the film completely. Dull.