I am not ashamed that I watched it. I don’t feel guilty about having watched it.
Let’s get this very clear – this film is not anti-India and it does not give the rapist a chance to give his side of the story.
Discussions abound on social media and in other circles about whether the Indian government’s ban of the film is correct. Most of the discussions are based on bits of information people have gleaned from news reports. From my experience, the ones who have seen the film feel it should never be banned. The group that is calling for the ban can be divided into two – the ones who haven’t seen the film and politicians.
We will get to that later. Let us look at the film for a bit, shall we?
It starts by informing the viewer about the events of that sad day in December when Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was brutally raped and thrown out of a bus. Then we are shown images from the following day. We see our protectors, the police, out in full force. No, they are not trying to catch the rapists; instead, they are beating up people who were marching peacefully. They throw tear gas as the marchers. They drench them with water guns.
Cut to Jyoti’s parents – a lower middle class couple. They tell us about their daughter who dreamt of becoming a doctor. The father recounts a conversation with his daughter where he asks her if there is anything better than becoming a judge. The girl tells him that to be a doctor is a greater calling. Medical education is expensive, but Jyoti convinces her parents to use the money they have been collecting for her marriage to fund her studies. She also works nights at a call center to earn some more money. By the end of this section, you have a clear picture. Jyoti was young girl with dreams. She also had the guts and the drive to pursue those dreams. The force of her dreams was such that she was able to make others see and share her dreams. She was a special girl.
Now we are introduced to the men who raped her. Specifically one of them. He introduces us to each of his friends. They never went to school because “school was not for them”. They had no dreams, no aspirations, just a sense of defeat. This they vented on people around them. They got into fights regularly. They did nothing to better their state in life. They had no dreams they wanted to chase.
At this point, as a viewer you are stumped. It seems so unfair that these useless people could have snuffed out a life that held so much promise.
The film moves on to the days following the incident. The Indian government used the force at its disposal to quell the anger of the people. But this was India’s Tahir Square – the people were not about to turn around and go home. So the system begins to grind slowly. Soon it picks up speed, showing surprising agility. The perpetrators of the heinous crime are arrested, booked, arraigned and sentenced to death.
In this midst of all this motion, Jyoti dies.
When The Telegraph called this film “Chilling”, they must have been referring to the next section. We meet the rapist’s lawyers who tells us how it was all Jyoti’s fault. They tell us about our culture. They tell us that a woman should never leave home without a male relative. These are literate (if uneducated) people. That they can, still, maintain this attitude is the most chilling part of the film. That they understand nothing about culture is apparent.
Finally, we get to meet the families of the convicted men. They cry for their sons and husbands. They threaten to commit suicide. They threaten to kill their children. But not one of them sheds a tear for Jyoti.
The most chilling part of the film is that in many parts of our society Jyoti’s death, murder, is still seen as the result of her actions.
Over the past couple of days, I have received many arguments supporting the ban on the film. As I said, many of these came from people who hadn’t seen the film. But let us take each of these arguments and study them.
- It is anti-Indian.
There is nothing anti-Indian in this film. I didn’t see a single frame to support that argument. Yes, it shows us a few people who don’t seem to understand that Jyoti being out at night was not an invitation to rape her; instead, it was a young women living her life. But it also shows us people, in their hundreds and thousands, who came out on the streets and braved the excesses of the police to ask for justice. Hundreds and thousands of Indians who understood that a woman is a person with her own rights. India is and should be proud of them.
- It allows the rapists to tell us their side of the story
No it doesn’t. If anything, he comes across as a total asshole. Not only did he rape and kill an innocent girl; he has sold out his partners in crime. He tries to clean his dirty hands by wiping it on their clothes. At no point of time can anyone watching this film feel an iota of sympathy for this man.
- It will create tensions
This is a country where people have been systematically killed for so many sillier reasons – the assassination of a Prime Minister, to tear down and build a building, for moving to another part of the country to ply their trade, and what not. Every day we have politicians making inflammatory speeches openly. If this film were to create any sort of tension, I suspect I would welcome that tension. Remember, the only violence that was carried out in this entire episode were by the rapists (on an innocent girl) and by the police (on innocent marchers).
Here is where I stand on this – this film should NOT be banned. Far from it, it should be shown on national television. In fact, let’s show this film every Independence Day instead of the silly Roja. Let’s beam this into every home so people see things in context. Let people compare and contrast the dreams of Jyoti to the lack of dreams of four losers.
The rapist tells us on camera that their conviction will force future rapists to kill their victims so that they cannot be identified. It is a shallow argument. What this film does is show up these people as men who committed a crime. It is a crime without justification. Rape can never be justified.