Circa 1982, Richard Attenborough made ‘Gandhi’ and our chests swelled with pride to acknowledge that an ‘outsider’ made a film on the Father of the Nation. Cut to 2015. Leslee Udwin, an ‘outsider’ made a documentary film for BBC on ‘India’s Daughter’ and it put us to shame, so much so that it had to be ‘banned’ by our government.
We as a nation, have indeed come a long way from ‘Father of the nation’ film to ‘India’s daughter’ docu-film. The sad part is, we aren’t heading anywhere with this ‘Ostrich Mentality’, where burrowing one’s head isn’t going to change the ugly truth of our nation.
There’s a scene in Leslee Udwin’s ‘India’s daughter’, where ‘Nirbhaya’. To hell with those euphemistic brandings, let’s call her by her name, Jyoti Singh was robbed by a kid in a marketplace. When the cops caught hold of this kid and were hitting him, Jyoti intervened and asked them to spare the kid. She asked him why he stole her bag, to which the kid replied that he, too, wants to wear those beautiful clothes and gorge on burgers. She offered the kid clothes and burger and asked him to promise he won’t commit such crime again.
This anecdote is a classic example of how Jyoti believed in weeding out the ‘crime’ from the ‘criminal’, instead of punishing him. It leaves one wondering how Jyoti would have dealt with the criminals, if she were alive today. As a viewer, I was compelled to pause the docu-film for a while and watch it all over again – this time from Jyoti’s perspective. Trust me, it was a whole new way of watching this film.
Mukesh Singh, the ‘narrator’ of the film and of course, one of the six men who committed such a heinous crime, ‘rarest of rare case’, as our Supreme Court would like to put it, appeared as if he were narrating something that is ‘normal’ in our country. There wasn’t a hint of guilt on his face. His eyes never lowered at any point of time, even when he described the goriest detail – “The juvenile put his hand inside her and something came out. I guess it was her intestines…” Would Jyoti have forgiven this man of diabolic nature?
Well, if that wasn’t enough, defence advocate ML Sharma draws an analogy between a woman and a flower, and goes on to state in a matter-of-factly tone, “Indian culture is the best culture. There is no place for women.” Does his statement surprise you? There’s nothing new about it, we’ve been hearing it since ages – auratein ghar ki laaj hoti hai – sharm uska gehna, aur hayaa uske zevar, which can be roughly translated as – Women are a home’s honour and shyness is her jewel.
Shy of what? Of being confronted by a man? We discarded the Pardah System (yet prevalent in rural areas) from our ‘Hindu’ culture, but what about the patriarchic mindset that still lurks in our society? Men still believe that they ‘own’ women.
The Bhagwad Geeta places women on equal pedestal with men, when it comes to spirituality and emphasizes on protecting them as they are more vulnerable. The Holy Qur’an, before asking women to cover themselves up from head to toe in front of men, clearly commands men to lower their gaze first. Through ages, we ensured that our women are ‘protected’ by men as Bhagwad Geeta puts it and covered them up from head to toe as mentioned in Holy Qur’an, but forgot to ‘lower our gaze’.
When was the last time you lowered your gaze on spotting a beautiful girl or woman? ‘India’s daughter’ resonates the mindset of Indian men – Tijori khulli rakhoge to chori hogi hi na! (If you keep your locker open, it’s bound to get looted). The damage is done. We, the men of India have lost our women’s trust and respect. They no longer look up to us as their partners and protectors, but potential rapist, molester or stalker.
Sounds far-fetched? Let me ask you a hypothetical question: If you happen to spot a girl walking past the road after sunset and you genuinely feel like giving her a lift to her place. Chances are you might be slapped or perhaps she’d politely thank you and keep walking – which depends on how you approach her.
If she declines and you genuinely care for her and keep following her- Lo and behold, there’s a stalker in you! Forget the hypothetical situation, complimenting a female stranger can also land you up in trouble and misunderstanding. Blame it on breach of trust. They no longer trust us, period.
Leslee Udwin’s ‘India’s daughter’ has ruffled feathers precisely for highlighting this ‘breach of trust’ and showing us our ugly faces. Right from those six criminals, to their defence advocates, each person makes you believe that it was Jyoti’s fault. One question – If she were alive, would Jyoti have accepted her ‘fault’? The filmmaker has been through sexual assault, which makes her perspective all the more thought-provoking. The re-creation of Jyoti’s story leaves a lump in your throat. The in-depth research evokes an awe for the filmmaker. It’s neither provocative nor obscene and thankfully not melodramatic. Sad that ‘India’s daughter’ has been banned in our nation. India deserves to hear the truth, no matter how bitter it may sound.
Nevertheless, no ban can ban ugly truth from being heard. India’s Daughter reflects India’s mindset. The film embarrassed us by our nakedness, and that folks, is the ugly truth.