Provoked: A True Story

  • Film
  • Drama
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‘R versus Ahluwalia’ (1992) is a milestone judgment in English criminal law: with this unprecedented case, ‘battered wife syndrome’ was acknowledged as a valid provocation defence for murder in this country. Calcutta-born Jag Mundhra, who is better known for his erotic thrillers (‘Night Eyes’, ‘Sexual Malice’) now delves into domestic drama to examine the events that led to this important and well-documented change in the law.

Bollywood babe Aishwarya Rai is Kiranjit Ahluwalia, the British Punjabi woman who was sentenced to life imprisonment after she set alight and killed her brutish husband, Deepak (Naveen Andrews) by pouring petrol on his bed as he slept in Southall, west London in May 1989. After being sentenced that same year, Kiranjit appealed against her conviction in 1992 with the help of a support group, the Southhall Black Sisters, and successfully had her guilty plea to a manslaughter charge accepted by the court. Ahluwalia has since welcomed this British-Indian co-production based on her story.

Mundhra’s approach to his fiery subject results in a film which is a dramatic mishmash of ‘EastEnders’, ‘Prisoner Cell Block H’ and ‘Crown Court’, with most characters emerging as soapy stereotypes. But ‘Provoked’ rises above the suds because it still manages to engage at a poignant level. Rai, in her latest bid for mainstream respectability, drops her previous and irritating doe-eyed mannerisms and, with the aid of a strong supporting cast, delivers a fragile, restrained and credible performance. It’s a low-key message movie, but it still packs a punch.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 6 2007
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jag Mundhra
Screenwriter: Rahla Gupta, Carl Austin
Cast: Steve McFadden
Rebecca Pidgeon
Robbie Coltrane
Deborah Moore
Naveen Andrews
Aishwarya Rai
Nandita Das
Nicholas Irons
Miranda Richardson
Raji James
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