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'Provoked'

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Provoked
Directed by Jag Mundhra
Opens May 11, Sunshine Cinema and ImaginAsian Theater

Based on the true story of an Indian woman who set fire to her abusive husband, Provoked is a feminist homily of the shrillest order. As Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Aishwarya Rai accumulates battered-woman clichés, venerating the legacy of Judith Light by jolting every time a door slams and staring at the fourth wall in traumatized stone-face. In a London prison, she finds a semblance of freedom and solace, even though the guards riotously mispronounce her name and a big, fat lesbian with bad teeth tries to take her non-vegetarian gruel. Outside, a group of women's rights activists that could pass for the stock cast of 3-2-1 Contact rally for her appeal, trying to justify why Kiranjit—Karen to her lazy prison gal pals—would have wanted to burn a well-oiled Deepak (Naveen Andrews) to a bacon-crisp. Most unintentionally hilarious bad scene: an absurdly preachy game of Scrabble during which Karen leaves the "u" out of the word shoulder. Lean on this: Short-changing issues of race and wearing its heart way out on its sleeve, it's the film's amateur exposition that's most dumbfounding—poised to provoke more sarcasm than righteous indignation.
 
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