Courtesy of MX
There are many reasons to like Provoked but there are also many reasons to dislike it as well. Casting Naveen Andrews and Aishwarya Rai who are probably the most well-known and recognisable South Asian actors in the West has a point, but Im sure but it wasnt for any specific creative reasons. Based on a true case (as the film does remind us incessantly) that changed the legal definition of Provocation in the UK especially by recognising battered-wife syndrome.
A mixture of fear, anger and retribution drove Kiranjit Ahluwalia (Rai) to set fire to her sleeping husband, Deepak Ahluwalia (Andrews) in their London flat, hours after being abused. The film argues that sufficiently enough when the bulk of its narrative intercrosses flashbacks of the fire and the domestic abuses leading up to it, with high-handed courtroom drama and unbelievable prison bonding sessions. It all leads up to a surprisingly reasonable finale that actually manages to be sensitive despite its indiscretions. But what it does miss out on is the psychological perspectives leading up to it when Andrewss role is nothing more than an dubious caricature of sadistic masculinity that his very nature beggars belief. It is possible to imagine this Kiranjits story being told in an emotionally flamboyant film and thankfully, it does employ a wistful tone that props up the procedural aspects of it that forms a large part of the film.
Rais first de-glamourised role has an agenda surely, both in its marketing and the actresss attempt to successfully cross the pond. For a considerable part, shes got the role down pat as an emotionally ravaged woman but there are more than a few digressions in the performance that points as much to the scripting and direction as it does to her competent performance. Some of these asides include dialogue that is effusively passionate and strained in a way that is simply not convincing and that is dangerous territory for an actress mostly known for her glitz and panache in front of the camera, to give herself a complete overhaul in a lightweight screenplay.
Despite occasionally faltering into scenes so overwrought that it threatens to exploit our empathy for beaten women, it does manage to avoid a you-go-girlism agenda that would have revelled in the revenge more than its conscionable reasons. Remarkably that restraint is borne by its director Jag Mundhra, who has by all accounts, made a career out of the Wests burgeoning sexual curiosity of Indian female exoticism by way of direct-to-video, inside the backroom, on the bottom of the shelf productions.