Tuesday, 23 February 2016

This is not a Book Review: Sadat Hasan Manto; the Misogynist and Chauvinist

Stars from Another Sky: The Bombay Film World of the 1940sStars from Another Sky: The Bombay Film World of the 1940s by Saadat Hasan Manto
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It was J Devika who gifted me the book 'Stars from Another Sky' by Manto. that was four years ago. I read it recently when i was pushing myself to read more non fiction.One of my classmates and ex-friend had once told me that he had read one collection of short stories by Manto and then went on to read all of his work. The author was that addictive, he had said. I realized it was true for most Manto fans. I have not yet read his short stories or other works but from Stars from Another Sky i have come to realize how much of a misogynist he was. The ideas he nurtured and emanated about women and their sexuality are abhorrent. This is not a book review. It is a record of how the writer had wronged women in the pretext of writing about the Bombay Film World of the 1940s.

In the Introduction of the book, Jerry Pinto talks about these abysmal practices of Manto. He doesn't have a problem with it because he considers these to be a writer's freedom of expression. He writes in the end,

One may not agree with Manto, one may have serious misgivings about his politics, one may not feel completely comfortable with his negative strategies, but he is never less than entertaining. When you have put down this book, you will feel as if a friendly voice, cheerfully malicious and yet vulnerable in its self-revelation, has been stilled. You will miss it.

I did not miss it. Nor will any woman who think they are people. In the translator's note by Khalid Hasan we will find one such woman. Her name was Nayyar Bano. She had written to Manto stating her problems with the book. To me it appears too rooted in family values, morality etc which are things i do not subscribe to but i respect her and her opinion because it was a lone voice calling a spade a spade. Look at what she had to say about Manto's writings.

Regardless of how far a person has strayed from the path of virtue or how morally depraved he is, can you imagine him sitting at home, surrounded by his wife and children, and regaling them with the experiences-...-that you have described?...He would never talk such filth, he would never talk about women as if they were mere condiments spicing the main dish. How is it then that whenever the word woman has come to his (Shyam's) lips, it has invariably been prefixed with the epithet sali? How, come that when he finds his bed without a woman, he sets it on fire"? What service to mankind or public morals is being performed by printing such things in newspapers?...
...After all, this world is not the sole property of men that they should wallow in filth and contaminate not only themselves but the innocent as well. Is there no reckoning? Where should one seek refuge?...Perhaps fathers should now teach their sons splash around in pools of liquor and drag these sali women with them for amusement. Perhaps mothers should now teach their daughters how to lay fresh and clever traps for men...

She wrote. And what did Manto have to say to this woman critic of his?

I felt pity for Nayyar Bano and her mental condition. I said to myself that...I should make it up to her. But then I thought if I tried to do that in the manner that I wished, she might faint...I did not want her to suffer a shock; she might not survive the experience
...there is only one way to bring them (people like Nayyar Bano) back to health. They should be forced to witness thousands of bottles of liquor being opened, with their corks flying all over the place, and their contents poured into a pool. After that one should...scream every obscenity one knew-and if one couldn't do it oneself, men should be hired for the purpose-read aloud every filthy advertisement for aphrodisiacs and remedies for private male and female ailments from magazines such Shama, Besween Saddi and Roman, not once but repeatedly.

Manto wanted all this to be done simply because a woman had questioned him and his writing. I feel it was because he had no answers to her. In the above portion he is a scared writer who has resorted to shunning a woman as mad. Last time i heard that was done was in 17th century or something.

I shall now point out the way the writer's style and vocabulary itself are misogynistic. I am one of those who believe that there is a male language and female language in literature. There are also attempts to create more male literature and hide female literature by never talking about it. Manto in the book is the epitome of male language.
In Ashok Kumar: The Evergreen Hero Manto says about actress Devika Rani,

...he talked her into abandoning the warm bed of her lover Najmul Hasan in Calcutta and return to Bombay Talkies where her talents had a greater chance of flourishing

Later about Ashok Kumar he says,

Ashok was not a professional lover but he liked to watch women, as most men do. He was not even averse to staring at them, especially at those areas of their anatomy that men find attractive

In Rafiq Ghasnavi Manto makes clear his attitude about women once again. Like what has been suggested in the above occasions he truly believes women are commodities to be tested out.

Those days, I was wholly idle, restless and bored all the time…On seeing a bunch of schoolgirls on the street, I would pick one out and imagine that I was having an affair with her.

Even though the following belongs to another topic altogether I am also quoting Manto’s views on partition. It throws light on how things were during that time and it’s by a person who had experienced all that himself. Historically it is relevant.

In Bombay, the communal atmosphere was becoming more vicious by the day. When Ashok and Vacha took control of the administration of Bombay Talkies, all senior posts somehow went to Muslims, which created a great deal of resentment among the Hindu staff. Vacha began to receive anonymous letters that threatened him with everything from murder to the destruction of the studio. Neither Ashok nor Vacha could care less about this sort of thing. It was only I, partly because of my sensitive nature and partly because I was a Muslim, who expresswed a sense of unease to both of them on several occasions. I advised them to do away with my services because the Hindus thought that it was I who was responsible for so many Muslims getting into Bombay Talkies. They told me that I was out of my mind.

Out of mind I certainly was. My wife and children were in Pakistan. When that land was a part of India, I could recognize it. I was also aware of the occasional Hindu-Muslim riot, but now it was different. That piece of land had a new name and I did not know what the new name had done to it. Though I tried, I could not even begin to get a feel for the government which was now said to be ours.

The day of Independence, 14 August, was celebrated in Bombay with tremendous fanfare. Pakistan and India had been declared two separate countries. There was great public rejoicing, but murder and arson continued unabated. Along with cries of ‘India zindabad’, one also heard ‘Pakistan zindabad’. The green Islamic flag fluttered next to the tricolor of the Indian National Congress. The streets and bazaars reverberated with slogans as people shouted the names of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

I found it impossible to decide which of the two countries was now my homeland-India or Pakistan. Who was responsible for the blood that was being shed mercilessly every day? Where were they going to inter the bones that had been stripped of the flesh of religion by vultures and birds of prey? Now that we were free, had subjection ceased to exist? Who would be our slaves? When we were colonial subjects, we could dream of freedom, but now that we were free, what would our dreams be? Were we even free? Thousands of Hindus and Muslims were dying all around us. Why were they dying?

Back to his objectification. In ‘Nargis: Narcissus of the Undying Bloom’ he describes the actress thus

‘She was a thin-legged girl with an unattractive long face and two unlit eyes. She seemed to have just woken up or about to go to sleep. But now she was a young woman and her body had filled out in all the right places’

‘Nur Jehan: One in a Million’ begins this way:

‘I think I first saw Nur Jehan in Khandan. She was certainly no ‘baby’ then, no sir, by no stretch of imagination. She was as well stacked as a young woman would wish to be with the assets women bring into play when required by the situation.’

In ‘Sitara: The Dancing Tigress from Nepal’ he once again stoops to page three journalism.

‘Tara had many affairs, including one with Shaukat Hashmi who was married to Purnima who later divorced him. Alaknanda passed through many hands and in the end settled down with the famous Prabhat Studio actor Balwant Singh. How long she lived with him, I do not know.’

In my memory such descriptions of personal (read sexual) life of women existed only in some Malayalam films written by Shaji Kailas starring Suresh Gopi or Mammootty. When did Manto graduate from the Mallu school of misogyny?
Again he says

‘Sitara was made of different clay and even a man like Nazir could not keep her from hopping into bed with other men.’

Later on we will come to know that Manto’s problem was that he could not handle a sexually independent woman. First of all none of them slept with him or wanted to sleep with him. Hurt male ego/penis ego. Then these women whom he painted in such crass style in his page three journalistic venture were all successful and couldn’t care less about what Manto thought about them. Manto himself says that ‘Sitara hated the sight of me’. In fact the woman had a problem with his journalism. Subsequently they ended up being some sort of Femme Fatale for Manto.

‘I ran into Arora on the street. He was walking with the help of a stick and his back was bent. He had always been thin but he looked in extremely poor shape that day. I felt that he had difficulty even walking, as if there was no life left in him…Expressing surprise at his appearance, I asked him what was wrong. Almost out of breath with fatigue, he managed a faint smile and replied. ‘Sitara…Manto, Sitara.’

Al-Nasir, who lost his slim, upright and handsome figure after a few years, and became fat and flabby, was a sensation when he first came, with his fair, almost pink complexion, nurtured by the cool hill air of his native Dehra Dun. He was so good-looking that one could almost compare him to a beautiful woman. When I returned to Bombay from Delhi after accepting an offer from Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, I met him at Minerva Movietone. I just could not believe my eyes. His pink complexion had become ashen and his clothes hung loose on him. He seemed to have shrunk and all energy and strength appeared to have been squeezed out of him. ‘My dear, what have you done to yourself?’ I asked because I was worried about his health. He whispered the answer in my ear, ‘Sitara…my dear, Sitara.’
Sitara was everywhere. I wondered if Sitara’s only purpose in life was to infect men with pallor, from the England-trained Arora to the Dehra-Dun born Al-Nasir.’

‘Nazir had banished Sitara from his life and once his mind was made up he never changed it. Sitara he did not give a damn about, but he was worried about his nephew whom he had brought all the way from Lahore so that he could make something of himself, He did not want him to fall into Sitara’s clutches. He knew her well and he also knew that she fed on young men like Asif’
‘All I know is that Asif had married in Lahore with great fanfare and brought his bride to Bombay, settled down on Pali Hill and, in less than three months, the marriage was on the rocks. Who but Sitara could have been responsible for it? She was a woman of experience and knew how to make herself attractive to a man , rendering him useless for other women. That was how she had weaned Asif away from his new bride and that was why he had come back to her. That woman Sitara had something other women lacked. Asif left his wife because she probably did not have the qualities that he had found in Sitara. Was it that she had left Asif with no taste for inexperienced virgins?’

Of course in extra marital relationships or any relationship for that matter the woman was at fault. She is the one who ‘lured’ the unsuspecting man to her fatal ‘qualities’. I think compared to Manto people were more progressive during Sati.
The audacity with which the author talks about sex lives of women as if he was the person they were confiding in is pathetic. It is some voyeuristic way of putting down women who made choices in bed. Especially when the choice was not to have Manto in it, in my opinion. Look at the way in which he talks about Nur Jehan’s sex life as though she had told the author how she felt when she had sex.

‘And there was Nur Jehan who could produce the most perfect note from her throat but who found herself unable to make Shaukat depart from her heart. She could sing the khayal with the ease of a maestro but the only thing on her mind these days was the young and willowy Shaukat, who had given her the most joyous moments of her life, who had sent a tingle through her body that the finest music had been unable to transmit. How could she forget the man who had given her such perfect physical fulfillment?’

And later

‘Nur Jehan had blossomed after moving in with Shaukat. It is only physical contact with a man that gives the final touches to a woman’s beauty, and by now Nur Jehan was a full-blown woman. The slight, girlish figure she had had in Lahore had been transformed by Bombay. Her body was now privy to all varieties of carnal pleasure and, though some people still called her Baby Nur Jehan, she was no baby, but a woman who had known love and its ecstasy.’

A bit later we get to know what the author thinks of male-female relationships in general. It is no wonder that a person who thinks the only relationship possible when two people of opposite sex are alone is sex is only interested in the sex lives of his subjects.

The place did not offer much by way of privacy, so it is to be assumed that young Asif must have witnessed, and certainly heard, what a man and a woman do when they are alone.

His body was young, sinewy and powerful, his blood warm; all he wanted was an opportunity to prove his manhood

And the way in which a person’s manhood could be proved was by having sex according to Manto.
Another grotesque description can be found in ‘Baburao Patel: The Soft-hearted Iconoclast’. Let’s see how he is an iconoclast.

The door opened and a strong-legged, bosomy, dark-complexioned Christian girl walked into the room. Baburao winked at her. ‘Come here.” She walked up to his chair. ‘Turn around,’ Baburao told her. When she did, he slapped her bottom resoundingly. ‘Get some paper and a pencil.’

About the same woman he adds later, after telling the readers that she was Baburao’s mistress and stenographer and secretary all at once

Rita Carlyle was not a one-man woman but because of Baburao she had become more upmarket.

What a wonderful commodity woman is, in Manto’s world.
In ‘Paro Devi: The Girl From Meerut’ I found the most disgusting piece of writing by Manto. Talking about Asok Kumar’s shyness around Paro whom he found attractive Manto says ‘He simply did not have the courage to grab her and take her to bed.’ Later comes the horrendous description about Paro.

‘When she was squeezing water out of her clothes, Ashok and I caught sight of her leg all the way up to the thigh. When we had packed up and were driving home, Ashok said to me, ‘Manto, that was quite a leg. I felt like roasting it and eating it.’

In my opinion Saadat Hasan Manto has no place in journalism. He might have written unforgettable stories, created great art but his regressive views on women will land him in that heap of people who when it comes to women fail to realize that they are people.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Chauthi Koot (Fourth Direction): Gurvinder Singh (2015)

Loved the film. He makes you feel the dog is dead a lot of times. But till the end it is not confirmed. [Talk with Han. He identified himself with the dog. How he was fighting the sexual harassment battle for himself]. When asked what was the meaning of a shot, Gurvinder said that sometimes there was no meaning. Same with the title of the film. He said he never asked why the original text was called Fouth Direction. The structure of his narrative is very interesting and stealable. He started with one story and went to another story which happened six months ago and showed us a hindu husband and wife and child and then told us the whole dog story which is not about the dog at all and then he came back to the passengers getting off and the hindu passengers bring asked for help.
The shot of people going to AMritsar top angle and jimmy jib backwards to just making the sound of police warning.
Loved his style and pace in this one rather than Alms for the Blind Horse.
When he saw the house with the ladder he said that that was his house. Script changes so much after finding the location. Loved that frame which looked like people in the sky because of the ladder kept like that.

Him removing the cellophane off the chair. Hates the noise.
Cinema is all about transitions from one time and space to another. He feels the sense of time is more important. He says time in space for this reason. After giving information why would a filmmaker keep it for longer. The Growing Stone. Albert Camus.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

This is not a Book Review: Train to Pakistan; Khushwant Singh

Train to PakistanTrain to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Didn't like it. Very shallow. Quoting the only sentences i liked from the book
The itch on the back of his neck told him that they were looking at him and talking about him

A new moon looking like a finely pared fingernail appeared beside the evening star.

He felt a little feverish, the sort of feverishness one feels when one is about to make a declaration of love.

The arrival of the ghost train is very cinematic. It is horrific but the author has written in a cinematic manner.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Dreams, January 2016

2nd January 2016

  • I find the ring of the pressure cooker which fits. [the one i had had fallen loose and i was not able to fit it back that night]
  • Gi, childhood friend falls into a mud puddle in front of me. Her father whom i hate stands watching and says something to me.

3rd January 2016

  • Dreamed that in some statement that i gave in court there was inconsistency and i was questioned based on that.
  • Another dream in which S Choudhari, one of the professors who got suspended for sexual harassment charges had summoned all of us direction students in a room. He was very well dressed and he said what the charges against him were. Then he pointed to three female students including me in class and said that he knew that it was we who had complained. 
  • In another dream Jay was trying hit on me saying that i was always his true love 
21st January 2016

  • A dream in which i brushed against Han's (junior) hands. Looked like we liked each other. 
27th January 2016

  • A dream in which N. Sahay was there. He was going to the ICC Chairperson saying that he had got a signature from some high authority, probably a professor. I see this and conclude that it is O. Hazra who has signed in his favour. ICC Chairperson doesn't acknowledge the paper. O Hazra is again teaching us and doing her bullying. Sethuvamma tries to protest.

Films; January 2016

Ek Hasina Thi: Sriram Raghavan (2004)

Didn't like it much. What i failed to understand was why people were saying that Aashiq Abu had copied this film while making 22 Female Kottayam. Didn't look like it to me. May be he drew inspiration.

Flight of the Red Balloon: Hou Hisao-Hsien (2007)

Liked it. The actress. Her mood swings etc. The young film student. Keeping the number of characters down looks like a good idea but how far is it achievable, especially in the Indian context? Think.

The Assassin: Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2015)

Not really my area of interest. Have forgotten most of it already except the girl's pregnancy.

Ahl-e-Suluk[People of the Sufi Path]: Abdul Rajjak (2015)

Documentary about the various traditions of Sufism in the country. Didn't like the film. There was no life to it.

The Secret in Their Eyes

Retired police officer writing a book. Revisits a case of rape and murder. My biggest problem with the film was the way it portrayed rape. First of all Why is it important to show the body (naked) of the woman who was raped (and in this case killed)? After showing the body for real the filmmaker goes on to show the photographs of the same in various places in the film. Why is it necessary? To generate sympathy? I strongly believe that when somebody says that they have been raped it means that something brutal had happened. We don't have to show brutal naked pictures to show the brutality. Rape is inherently brutal. Another point where i disagree is when the male sex organ is showed on screen. I am not against nudity in films. But i don't think that anything is achieved by showing an erect penis or penis in the process of attaining an erection or a penis which the story has described as 'huge'. This is all part of body shaming. What is a big penis? Is there something called the standard length of a penis? Above all what i hated was the portion where the woman is trying to get a confession from the suspect. She says that the woman had vaginal wounds which were very deep and by looking at the accused it was clear that he was not 'well endowed'. Let me get this clear. That the vaginal wounds were deep is not proof that the man was 'well endowed'. If it is proof to anything it is to the fact that she was raped. Period.

Invoking Justice: Deepa Dhanraj (2011)

What a world of women. Reminded me so much about the ICC. Especially the meetings they have. How beautifully they tackle problems. They never get angry. I need to learn from them. What Deepa Dhanraj told after the screening, That it was the first time there was absolutely no comments after the film. [It happened in SRFTI main theatre. None of the students had anything to say to the director who was ready to face their questions] It was epic, Ms. Dhanraj said.
Then she talked about the time when the group had supported Sania when some people had criticized the length of her skirt. They had asked why they were looking Sania's skirt instead of her tennis. They supported actress Khusboo when she spoke in support of pre marital sex. When SIMI arrests were going on the group of women had gone to Chennai, the capital city to hold a press conference regarding the death of a Muslim woman. People kept on asking them about SIMI. They said, 'just because we are Muslim you think we are here to talk about SIMI? We are here to talk about a Muslim woman whose body they are refusing to bury'. One of the reporters told them that they were not interested in dead Muslim prostitutes. The group handled him appropriately.
Didn't like the phone conversations in between scenes with the director. Director's voice in phone conversation could have been avoided. But i still believe that in women's stories women's voice should narrate something or the other.

Certified Copy: Abbas Kiarostami (2010)

Second time with the film. More beautiful than the first time. I like how directors play with mirrors in shot taking. Her trying to catch the attention of her husband. Her acting especially in the first scene where the author is giving the speech and she is asking her son to be quiet. The way the film ends. Wow. Beautiful. Reminded me of the abusive relationship i was in when this film was screened at IFFK.

Sex and Lucia: Julio Medem (2001)

What a load of crap. All people are beautiful. All people have beautiful bodies and all of them have a lot of sex. I still haven't understood why  erect male sex organ is shown in films. If one wanted to see that one only had to watch some porn. Why go prepared for cinema. In this one they are even showing an erection in process with the foreskin moving backward. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? How would they have auditioned actors or dupes in case they were used. Still haven't understood where Lucia was in the film except the title. The ending was like a typical bollywood/mallu film. First the friend appears while the woman waitswith bated breath thinking whether or not Lorenzo would appear. What was the meaning of the whole thing about the daughter's death. Shit. Load of shit.

Like Someone in Love: Abbas Kiarostami (2012)

What a film. The way it begins is very very interesting. A conversation happens. We see a girl who is talking in whispers looking at someone. She is not the owner of the voice. After a long time the girl talking on the phone is revealed. The girl constantly changing places. How the girl is trying to convince her paranoid boyfriend that she is not lying. Her grandmother. Again the scene in the taxi. The voice messages playing on the face of the driver. Then we see the girl with earphones. The grandmother mentioning seeing her photo. [Later we see this photo also]. The sight of grandmother staying there and waiting waiting. She asks the driver to take one more round. Ending: One more in the Fandry, Ankur genre. Stone breaking in and hitting/nothitting the old man.

Close-Up: Abbas Kiarostami (1990)

About a man who pretended to be Makhmalbaf. Starts with a reporter who is excited about the story. The shot in which a police guy waiting collects flowers from a waste can and puts in the car. Kicks a tin can on the road and follows it till it stops. [Any object rolling like that is good to excite audience] Later the journalist kicks it more after getting tape recorder. The scene in which he comes out and sees actual Makhmalbaf. Makhmalbaf says he gets tired of being himself sometimes. The court scenes. Kiarostami explaining two types of lenses. Zoom and wide. Him bringing flowers and giving the family in the end. He cries in the end also. When he rings the bell and they ask who and he says who and adds Makhmalbaf. She cuts the call. The actual Makhmalbaf says it's him. Feel good film. The common person who has a passion for art. He thinks Makhmalbaf's films are about human suffering. Mic. not working properly in the whole portion of real Makhmalbaf meeting his dupe. It's good.

The Wave: Dennis Gansel (2008)

Didn't like the way it was filmed but the experiment and therefore the film are very contextual. Even though in the real experiment no student was killed it is a good thing that itwas shown in the film because that is what it is capable of. Good move that way. It is also interesting how the teacher's personal life becomes increasingly violent through the experiment.

Sancharram (The Journey) Ligy J Pullappally (2004)

In detail here 

The Song of Sparrows: Majid Majidi (2008)

Didn't like much. The children and their acting. Acting in general is brilliant. The fish dying rescuing scene is really good. The man pretending to be an ostrich is good. The first time we see it we for once feel that he has found the ostrich which ran away. Otherwise it didn't really enter my heart.

The Real Dirt on Farmer John: Taggart Siegel (2005)

Documentary about how a farmer saved his farm through community farming. Image of dying mother. Cancer- it really kills. Her skeleton like figure. Funny in places. Vegetables-good to look at.

26th January 2016
Clouds of Sils Maria: Olivier Assayas (2014)

Didn't like the film. Lacked depth. The actress as an actress. Doing a play. The P.S going missing just like in the play was nice. Need to go to that place and see those snake clouds one day.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Laundry List: Hooliganism after Banning of Drinking in Public in SRFTI

I am writing this in fear. I am scared that me and my friends will be beaten up by drunken goons who are also students of SRFTI. I am scared that my garden will be destroyed, my cat will be killed, my mother will be beaten up, my room will be set fire to. These are the thoughts which are running in my mind while writing this. Why?

Ever since I complained against sexual harassment on campus along with several  other female students, and three professors were suspended, I have been facing the most brutal form of intimidation and violence. I have been called names on social media, meetings have been held against me, I have been branded as mad. Have been accused of having ruined the ‘reputation of the institute’. 
On 6th February 2016 a circular was passed around saying that drinking in public has been banned on campus. A picture of that notice was shared on WhatsApp groups in which students are members. People argued  against it. Badminton tournament happened in the following days. Yesterday, on 7th February 2016 the commentator of badminton tournament announced that there was going to be a party after the tournament and that people were expected to contribute money for the same. S, my classmate was sitting next to the commentator and whispered into his ears. The commentator immediately corrected himself over the microphone that it was not a ‘party’ and that it was a ‘bhajan keertan’ because parties were banned of late. 

I was very disturbed that night and went up to Vai Vow’s room to sleep. His room is on the second floor. Mine is on the ground floor. At around 6 a.m on 8th February 2016 I woke up to the sound of metal beating against metal. I got scared. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Vai Vow went outside the room. He came back in a couple of minutes and said that he was going to record something. He had been asked to record it all and use it as proof by S, who was drinking there. I got more scared. I followed him outside into the corridor from where you could see what was happening. A group of drunken men were shouting abuses in the badminton court of the girl’s hostel. This was right in front of my room. When they saw that Vai Vow was recording two of them left the frame. They were hitting the poles on the court with a metal rod. One of them said to Vai Vow ‘Jaake suna dena apne behan ke laudi ko’, referring to me. You can hear it here in this video which I uploaded without Vai Vow’s permission and against his wish.

He continued showering abuses.
Vai Vow called the hostel warden and said that there was hooliganism happening in the hostel and that he had to intervene. He came in some time and I heard more abuses. Neither of us slept for the rest of the night.
I asked Debja Ni and Bal, my neighbours, to be careful too.
In the morning I went and reported the incident to the ICC for Sexual Harassment. When I came back I saw the warden playing cricket with the drunken offenders. The video is here. The warden is the one who is batting.


You can see my clothes hanging in front of room. I saw that they had upturned a banner I had placed in front of my room. My newspaper which was on the latch of the door had been thrown on the badminton court. 
I called the warden and asked why he was playing badminton with the same people who had abused me in the morning. He told me that he had been forced to do that. I asked him to ask them to stop creating a ruckus in front of my room. He did that. All of them marched to the administration side of the campus. They held a meeting there and decided to talk to the authorities regarding the ban on public drinking. They had another issue too, the restriction placed on one senior student. He had been banned from entering the campus. [The person himself has been spreading rumours that the decision was based on my complaint. It was not.] The students wanted the offender to be brought back to campus. In the meeting which was held by the director of the institute with the dean and all faculty members students argued that they loved alcohol and they wanted to drink on campus and in public spaces. 
I asked the director why even after urging him to address the students on the matter of sexual harassment for weeks he had refused to do it and only wrote a letter which was pasted on notice boards and why he had agreed to meet all the students in the preview theatre along with faculty and dean when the matter in question was alcohol. He said that I had no right to question him. I asked him to ask what Sau Suman had called me in the morning, I asked him to tell me the meaning of the expletive he had used so that everyone could hear it. The director said that it was not a question and answer session. The dean asked me to leave the room because I was agitated. 
Yes, I am agitated. When my life is under threat I will be agitated. Sweet talking is a privilege. Sanity is a privilege here in SRFTI. When drunken people were abusing me nobody was bothered. When I raised my voice in a meeting I became the mad girl (again). 
Rape has already happened. SRFTI will stop only when it sees murder. Or perhaps it won’t even then.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sexual Harassment: Another Good Sign: From the Desk of the Director

I believe it is important to document everything. I believe what we, me, and some girls who complained against sexual harassment in Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), are doing is not just about us, but also about the larger problem of sexual harassment in educational institutions and workplaces. A lot of people including elected representatives of students went to the director asking him to address all the students to dispel doubts. This was because the atmosphere on campus was still largely hostile  to the complainants. The complainants were still being accused of having brought about the suspension of professors etc. The director did not address the students in a meeting, but on 27.1.2016 he published a letter. I am making it public here now because it is a step forward in the direction of safe campus for women. 

Dear students
You all know what time it is. It is worrying to say the least, punctured by gushes of anxieties and spouts of perturbations. It is definitely a time of deep concern for all of us with incidences like serious complaints of sexual harassment, suspension of three faculty members and four students, pendency of inquiry proceedings, police arrest of one assistant professor and of late, premature retirement of Dean. It has been an extremely trying time for all the stake holders like students, faculty members and employees to gather nerve in steering through this difficult phase. As we know, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going; and I need not tell you not to dissipate your energies in frivolities during tough times; I wish to suggest you to garner strengths to walk together straight through the problem and cross it with ease and elan. 

Many students in the recent days have met me to express their feelings of solidarity with one cause or the other. Their identification with such cause and effect rest on their perception and appreciation of the circumstances, which sometimes get cross-entangled with facts. Some have vented their doubts and dilemmas over the process and procedure folowed by the institute in the wake of the complaints. Many have taken exception to the acts of commission or omission by certain student(s) or faculty member(s) or employee(s) like somebody's media engagement in entirely private and personal capacity, which is purportedly offensive or prejudicial to the collective interests of the institute. More importantly, the complainants have voiced their apprehensions against attempts of isolation and intimidation towards them, leading to further harassment. Even the senior functionaries of the institute including the faculty members are not entirely unaffected by rushes of consternation over such unanticipated progression of events. I have tried to apprise and explain the developments during regular interactions with students' representatives, faculty members etc. and they have all, I must say, responded with sincerity, responsibility and maturity. Relevant orders and instructions available on our website relating to matters of sexual harassment were compiled and hard copies were circulated to all concerned. Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) comprising of internal and external members as constituted under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and as mandated by Supreme Court in their directives (famously known as 'Visakha Guidelines') has carried out their responsibilities as entrusted upon them by the Parliamentary enactment and Supreme Court's order with due diligence. Notwithstanding everything, there appearsto float around some misgivings of both deontological as well as teleological nature, which require to be addressed appropriately, for which i wish to appeal to you to appreciate the situation with compsure and equipoise. Let me succinctly tell you some of the developments for better understanding. 

After receipt of complaints relating to sexual harassment from some girl students, the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of SRFTI, as constituted under the provisions of SHWW(PPR) Act, 2013, after preliminary investigations, submitted a prima-facie report in the first week of December 2015. On after receipt of the preliminary report and on examination of the corroborations, three faculty members were placed under suspension and four students were ordered to leave the campus with immediate effect. Suspension and vacating the campus were ordered in view of the serious nature of the complaints and as part of the necessary measures for the inquiry to proceed in an atmosphere where the complainants do not undergo any intimidation or pressure, as prescribed in the proviso of the Act and Rules. We must know the history of the relentless struggle and undaunted activism of the Civil Society group that led to the promulgation of the Visakha Guidelines by the highest Court of the county, which in essence, make it madatory to prevent sexual harassment and provide effective mechanisms for the resolution of complaints; and which enjoined upon the government to frame the historic legislation.
The Guidelines ordained by Hon'ble Supreme Court prescribe criminal proceedings in accordance with which one complaint amounting to serious offence under sextion 375 of IPC was forwarded by SRFTI to police authorities. The law stipulates;
"Where such conduct amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making a complaint with the appropriate authority."

The Apex Court has further laid down; "In particular, it should endure that victims, or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment."

Similarly, the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) is a direct consequence of the Apex Court ruling, which has cast serious obligations on the committee in discharge of their responsibilities. The complaint against the erstwhile Dean related to his attempts of trivialising the charges of sexual harassment itself assumes significance in view of the importance attached to his office in an acdemic institution. He has elected to go on premature retirement. The Committee is bound to project and protect the rights of the complainants, to recommend measures to prevent incidence of sexual harassment and further under the Law, enquire into the complaints, being a Statutory body with the powers of a civil court and submit their report to the Disciplinary Authority for appropriate action in the event of establishment of charges against the accused. 

The enquiry proceedings are in progress and as provided under Section 11(4) of the Act, the inquiry shall be completed within the period of 90 (ninety) days. The respective departments have already been advised to propose necessary arrangements to take care of the absence of faculty members due to their suspension. Similarly the academic projects of the students must not suffer due to the suspension of the students, for which Dean I/C and HODs will take necessary steps to obviate possible disruption. Chairperson of ICC is also requested to complete the proceedings expedititiously and submit the report for early final decision. 
Let me re-assure you all that the steps adopted and the procedure followed by the institute are in pursuance to the prescribed procedure as laid down under Law and orders and instructions of Govt. of India; we are all interested in knowing the truth. You have all along shown your maturity during the trying times for the institute and I am sure, you will continue to demonstrate your considered reflections and informed choices while trying to navigate through this difficult time. 
It is only a matter of few days; this will be past very soon. What is necessary is forbearance. What is more demanding and more challenging is to make our stay and study here both enlivening and memorable. The time we spend here in our institute is not a kind of predator that stalks us as Jean-Luc Picard had said. Time is the best companion in our journey, which consistently reminds us to cherish each and every moment; because it will never come again in our lives. The experiences you gather here, the relations you nourish here, the life, all come upon you as prizes of life, which are all going to contribute towards making you a better person and a better film-maker, provided you look at these events more positively de hors sick prejudices and predilections. Let us not complain about the direction of the wind. We know for sure it is going to change. Let us together adjust the sails right now for a better voyage.
It is an advice not to the students alone, but to all faculty members, all employees and all the stake holders of our Great institution 'SRFTI'

Sanjaya Pattanayak

1. All notice boards
2. SRFTI Students' Association
3. All Faculty members
4. Chairperson, ICC
5. Registrar
6. Dean