Do films really instigate rapes?

Remember Shriram Raghavan’s Johny Gaddaar, where Neil Nitin Mukesh is shown reading James Hadley Chase and watching the Amitabh Bachchan movie, ‘Parwaana’ before he acts ‘Gaddaar’? A fleeting glance at newspapers might reveal cases where people committed crimes in ‘filmy’ style or inspired by a particular film. It leaves me wondering whether films really provide fodder to criminal minds.

The recent Delhi’s gang-rape (it was Delhi, the capital and the trust in our judicial system that got gang-raped) has ensued many a talkathons on television accusing films for instigating rape. Really? Do you buy the notion that Munnis, Sheelas, Fevicol and Halkat Jawaanis are responsible for such heinous crimes? There surely must be a line drawn, but do you mean to say that the bus driver was high on films perhaps porn films featuring Sunny Leone (oops she’s a respected lady now and an inspiration for many young girls, dare you call her a porn star!).

Well, here’s the revelation – the driver was high on alcohol, not filmochol! Pick up any newspaper and you’re sure to conclude that every criminal worth his ‘Malt’ was in an inebriated state before committing the crime. If we have a penchant for banning things, it’s the ready availability of alcohol that must be banned. Sadly, this too, isn’t the solution as the only thing that needs to be banned is the ban.

Instead of focusing on the actual issue, we’ve suddenly started pointing fingers (and flashing middle fingers) to our films, the soft target. To begin with, films are reflection of our culture. Pick up a DVD of Shaheed and you’ll discover the patriotic streak of our youth, Mother India portrays the zamindari system and plight of landless farmers, Naya Daur articulates industrial revolution, Deewar highlights the angry young men of India frustrated by joblessness, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge documents the great Indian family, Sarfarosh delves into terrorism, while Wanted, Dabangg, Singham, Golmaal series etc. reflect our need to escape from the daily grind of hectic lifestyle. Films have evolved with people and not vice versa.

This reminds me of a quote I found in Naseeruddin Shah’s interview where he said, “Films cannot change a nation. The only thing they can change is the hairstyle.’ We surely are influenced by films, but films haven’t changed us. There’s a difference between ‘influencing’ and ‘changing’. Had it been so, agriculture would have thrived after ‘Upkaar’ got released, Indian Army’s recruitment would have doubled up after the release of Border or Lakshya, youngsters would have shot down corrupt politicians after watching the climax of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti.

Interestingly, we didn’t choose to do that. What we picked up from the film was ‘candle march protest’ – the safest bet, which was reiterated in Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica. So when an Anna Hazare goes on a hunger strike or a 23-year old gets gang-raped in a bus, we buy candles on our way from office, gang up and jam the streets with candles in our hands and pose at the local news channel’s camera. Dude, candles are for candle-lit dinners, not revolutions. The candles might surely work if we shove it up against the rapists and molesters we spot around us, in the hole where it fits the best.

The Delhi gang-rape victim would have saved if the passersby hadn’t ignored her lying half-dead and full-naked on the roadside. At this stage where we need to come up with solutions to avoid such dastardly acts, all we end up doing is pooh poohing over the vulgarity shown in movies. We lap it all up during weekends over a three-course popcorn meal and gyrate to the item numbers during New Year Eve parties (how many of us skipped the New Year celebration in mourning of Nirbhaya’s death on 29th Dec?) and dance at the weddings (We even prod our kids saying – beta woh Halkat Jawani dance karke bata uncle ko) and then ask censors to snip those scenes and songs, alleging that they instigate rape and molestation.

Have you wondered why Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films still make for a great watch? Surely, they were well-made and well-written films, but they reflected the society consisting people leading a simple lifestyle and were essentially good-hearted. Perhaps deep inside, we miss those elusive attributes and find solace in watching those films and reliving those days when moral values and respect for women weren’t a part of an Aastha channel, but inherent part of one’s upbringing.

Today, youngsters speak profane words in day-to-day parlance, men leer at women at workplaces, make passes at women at bus-stands, brush their groins across women in queue and crowded places, rape infants, indulge in one-night stands, pee on roadside and flash their member while a woman passes by, share porn MMSes and lewd jokes, which somewhere gets reflected in films as well. Films are the mirror to the times we’re living in. And if the image in the mirror looks vulgar and detesting, it’s time for us to change, and not tint the mirror in dark shade.

In the near future, I won’t be surprised if every time a Ranjeet, Shakti Kapoor or current crops of Kameenas pounce upon women, the editing guy will be forced to add a disclaimer, just like we are ‘educated’ with those No Smoking disclaimers every time someone lights a fire.

The disclaimer might read: ‘Raping is injurious to health and a heinous crime. It may cause a lifetime imprisonment or death penalty’. Well, I believe it must read as: Raping is injurious to democracy’s health, and may cause candle protest march and banning of films.

For a change, how about replacing all the women-centric gaalis we mouth everyday with men-centric expletives? I couldn’t help agreeing with the character Kareena Kapoor (Khan) played in RA1, where she invents expletives targeted at men (sadly they too sounded like female-centric gaalis). If films can instigate men to rape, it can surely inspire women to learn a gaali or two from Kareena. Don’t we Indian men deserve that honour, especially after being unable to protect our women, and blame films instead?

To sum it up, films are mirrors to our society. They do have a responsibility, but so do we. We choose to watch such films and item numbers which is precisely why they’re being dished out to us every Friday. If we don’t like the image, instead of crashing the mirror, how about changing ourselves and making movies reflect good things?

If there are flicks like Singham, Wanted, Golmaal and Dabanng series, then we also have films of Phir Milenge, Swades, Kabul Express, Chakh De! India, Udaan, Taare Zameen Par, and 3 Idiots which can be termed as ‘ideal’ cinema. Having said that, let’s not forget the fact that we are all guilty of enjoying the ‘Balaatkaar’ and ‘Stan-dhan’ scene in 3 Idiots along with our family members. So whom are we kidding, and why act holier-than-thou?

In a scenario where we ought to bring about reforms in law & order, technology (GPS bus, constables at bus stops, efficient and proactive cops, citizen volunteers) and other such solutions, we are debating on silly stuff like films and item numbers. I haven’t spent my 1200+ words to defend today’s films. I detest those Munnis, Sheelas and Halkat Jawaanis as much as you do but it’s time to think beyond films. Once we change as a society, the films, too, will change and so would our tastes (hopefully). Till then we’d better focus on the bigger picture, rather than The Dirty Picture.

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3 thoughts on “Do films really instigate rapes?

  1. Good article Prakash….but I do think that people who make films have a social responsibility (not only people who make films, people who write books, people who paint, sketch, photograph, etc etc – just that films are more watched and celebrated in India, apart from Cricket that is) So, I’m thinking two things 1. That we all have this responsibility towards the society, we should promote goodness in every possible way. 2. We should really have some control over the Munnis, Sheelas and Radhas, I mean these songs are available and are on the minds of young kids for God’s sake.

    So while I agree with you that films don’t make us commit the crime, they certainly help build a culture and an environment where the crime takes place. Disrespect, dependence (the fact that women can’t make it, if they were out on their own in the world) of women is promoted throughout.

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  2. very well articulated prakash but i agree with the old films mention and also hrishi daa’s films and that age. i do not agree with your long long support of today’ hollow films ( hollow because they cant do without an item song ) as all are not – 3 idiots – black – dhobi ghat – taare zameen par – paa etc. tell me one thing do we really require ” munnee badnaam huee – aaj mai tery liye ” why should she get badnaam for my sake. its plain stupid. IS WOMAN AN ITEM – CAN YOU FORCE HER TO DO AN ITEM NUMBER – WHY IS SHE USED AS A COMMODITY OF BUSINESS IN FILMS. rapes may not be happening due to watching films – agreed, but that does not mean we should have item songs.

    we require to collectively help the police by being proactive and helpful. a vilgilant society is a safe society. the cops should learn to respect us and we them – they should find us to be the back bone of their effective policing.

    i have a lot to write to you but some other time.

    i am rather thrilled that you have written on a subject away from your regular interests. 🙂

    keep it up GOWDREY ( not collin cowdrey )

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