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'Provoked'

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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