Thursday 5 March 2015

Why I am Not India's Daughter:

4th March 2015

Kolkata celebrates Holi today. Delhi will tomorrow. Delhi is India's capital city. It is also the city with the most number of rapes reported. The Delhi gang rape of a medical student in a bus kindled nation wide protests. The documentary 'India's Daughter' has lengthy interviews with one of the convicts. India's problem with the film also lies there. The country has banned the screening of the film. On Holi day 2015 BBC however broadcasted the film in the wee hours of the morning and later released it on Youtube. This is not just a victory of freedom of speech. It is also a strong statement against state repression.


The film maker held interviews with the convicts who are now in Tihar jail. She did so after obtaining the necessary permissions from the concerned authorities. Lawyers of the convicts also speak. The problem here is that a 'foreigner' penetrated the state and subjected it to criticism. Jails are the epitome of state brutality. India is one of the few countries which still enforces capital punishment. The convicts have also been sentenced to capital punishment and have appealed to the Supreme Court.  This country has consent to brutality by the state and has further shut it out from people and made it impregnable. 'India's Daughter' and its director Leslie Udwin penetrate this capsule of violence.

As usual safety of women has been used to keep the truth under the hood. India has banned the documentary. They say that the content of the film is against women. Minister Venkaiah Naidu has said that it is part of an international conspiracy against the nation. Is a person convicted of rape blaming the victim while in jail international conspiracy? Or is the representatives of the judiciary saying that there is no place for women in Indian culture and that she has to be protected by men? If that is the case the film is a truth which has to be showed not just in India but around the world.

Another pertinent issue is that of how permissions were obtained to shoot in a prison. Why are our prisons camera shy? If prisons are state's models of efficiency shouldn't they be welcoming it? The issue is two sided. The first is the belief that prisons and its inmates are the property of state and should adhere to its whims and fancies. The second is that it is an 'other' which has crossed this barricade. In such situations even those who are otherwise anglophiles turn nationalists. The theory is that of an 'outsider' passing comments about the functioning of a family. Families are allowed to do anything. Domestic violence is allowed. Dowry is okay. No questions asked. The convict, Mukesh Singh, who believes that the victim shouldn't have protested and that it was all her fault and repeats this view throughout the documentary is a part of the family. It is intriguing that it is not this misogynistic view that has provoked the state but the fact that it is a British woman who brought it out. State is not protecting the convict. It is protecting the public opinion which is similar to that of the convict's. This is precisely what the documentary topples. 
BBC's India's Daughter

India's Daughter is a mediocre film. Nothing artistic about it. Moreover it is somewhat like Slumdog Millionaire in that it looks at India as a third world nation sinking in poverty and anti-social activities. A country which needs reformation. Glee at an opportunity to criticize a former colony is rather evident. India of slums, youth dropping out of school to earn a living, women who only seek protection from husbands- the sketch is just perfect.

I don't know if documentary is still seen as a quest for truth. I don't believe that cinema seeks the ultimate truth or that one even exists. I believe that from the time a camera is placed and a frame is obtained, through cuts to sound design, film making is a story of including and excluding. What is in a frame is also what is not in it. What a cut excludes is also what it includes. In that sense, the 'India's Daughter' has an outlook which says that India is a lot of uncivilized people engaged in heinous crimes. At the same time it is not advisable to ban it for this reason. This is the primary difference between fiction and non-fiction forms of art. Even while opposing the politics of Slumdog Millionaire, India's Daughter poses itself as a big pillar of truth. There are no actors here. No script. It is before media that one of the lawyers for the convicts said that he would set fire to any woman in his family who had premarital sex. He repeats the same in the documentary. Another lawyer says that woman is like a flower and that she will be worshiped if kept in a temple and be crushed if left on the streets. The convict says that rapes will not stop with their capital punishment. On the contrary people will now just murder women without a second thought under similar circumstances.

This is the politics of rape. To know the kind of power patriarchy enforces you only have to listen to the convict for a while. Mukesh Singh speaks of the victim's intestines being pulled out by a convict and being discarded on the road as if it were weather talk. He says with pride that his brother (another convict) is a gym instructor and that he is quite strong. It doesn't scare me, this machismo. On the mirror that is 'India's Daughter' it is silver-cold.

It is this reflection that the state wants to wipe away. The high of bhang is wearing away slowly from Kolkata. Youtube video has been removed already. For me, today's colours have Jyoti Singh too in them. Over all inebriation is a dark cloud of rain; of how an average Indian man looks at women. I am not India's daughter. I don't think Jyoti Singh was either. India is in fact Mukesh Singh. I cannot adhere to anything which originates there. Neither as a woman nor as a human being. In this festival colours i am with a 'foreign' film. A mediocre one which posed threat to state, a film which made me part of a conspiracy. Jyoti Singh, today, i miss  you.

Holi 2015
 Read the malayalam version here

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