The Sky Is Pink Review: Shonali Bose crafts a happy dream
Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra play parents to an ailing teenager in this light but moving film
As Niren Chaudhary (Farhan Akhtar) settles into a London radio station, the host – an animated Sikh man – lays down some rules. “We mostly just play Hindi film songs here,” he says, “So don’t expect much.” A touch poetically, he adds: “Insaan jahan umeed lagata hai, wonhi dhakke khata hai.” (Wherever a man pins his hopes, he gets hurt most.)
Niren crumbles for a moment, trying to conceal his disappointment. He is there to ask for donations for his daughter’s bone marrow transplant; this is life and death. Gathering himself, he inches forward and mutters into the microphone. His voice cracks up with pain, but his words remain coherent and brief, conveying in quick short sentences all that needs to be conveyed. This is hope — and it needs a little speaking up.
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra, Zaira Wasim
Director: Shonali Bose
Shonali Bose’s film, The Sky Is Pink, looks at 25 years in the life of Niren and Aditi Chaudhary. Their daughter, Aisha, is born with SCID, a rare immunity disorder. The couple had already lost a child to the ailment, so they bring Aisha to London, seeking treatment at the Great Osmond Street Hospital. Aisha survives the transplant but contracts pulmonary fibrosis in her teens as a side-effect. By then the family has relocated to Delhi, where Aisha is putting together her book, My Little Epiphanies, while delivering inspirational talks at top platforms.
By way of chronology, there’s a lot to unpack. The film struggles to check off every milestone and snag in the life of the Chaudharys. The script employs two main devices for the task: Aisha (Zaira Wasim) speaking to us from beyond the grave, and a non-linear retelling of events. Certain scenes feel pulled from life — the nervous beginnings, the financial strains — while others feel condensed for effect, such as the long-distance jealousies that ensue when Aditi and Niren are forced to live apart (surely they would have taken a darker toll). Likewise, Aisha’s wry patter is entertaining, but also unsentimental in an obvious way — unlike, say, Olivia Cooke’s ending notes in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
For all her grim choices, Shonali is a cheery director. In frame after frame, she goes after the brightest streak, which is gracefully dialled down by lensmen Kartik Vijay and Nick Cooke. They shoot a depressive 90s London, all shut windows and snow on the sidewalks. In a flashback, Niren sneaks Aditi into his Chandi Chowk home. As the opening to ‘Dil Hi Toh Hai’ plays, the camera steals past dimly-lit rooms to open exultantly on the rooftop, in time for birds circling the Jama Masjid. There are also some beautiful match-cuts: the sound of an aeroplane bouncing off a wallpaper art; Ishaan — Aisha’s elder brother — dipping into a pool and emerging elsewhere.
This is a film about the grownups. Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra Jonas transit charmingly from frenzied lovers to toiling, uncompromising parents. Their conflict — Niren being more career-minded than Aditi — eats into their marriage. They bicker and fight, sniffle and make up. It’s easy to put it all down to Aisha’s illness, and the sheer trauma brought on by a child’s impending death. Yet, The Sky Is Pink doesn’t always lean that way. Instead, it gives distinct personalities to its leading pair, an existence that reaches beyond their parenthood. This is where the film lights up the most, in chasing the continued romance of a couple unsullied by time.
We end with a montage of the real family: laughter, ceremonies, births, and deaths. It’s mostly scenes we’ve already seen before, but the mashup serves a purpose. Even as an artifice, it promptly breaks the cinematic illusion, restoring life to all its grainy complexity. With The Sky Is Pink, Shonali Bose has crafted a happy dream. And she is more than willing to admit it.