When 2017 started, Bollywood-crazed audience members were looking forward to two films led by iconic stars; Raees (starring Shah Rukh Khan) and Kaabil (led by Hrithik Roshan). These two movies were set to clash on their release date January 25th and internet was divided into those who favoured Raees and those who preferred Kaabil. Kaabil was well received during the initial screening and is hailed as the best film of Hrithik’s career.
The hype as always persuades one to watch the film, what I was not looking forward to is the regression of the mindset. Kaabil simply became another revenge flick which shamelessly enhanced the undying rape culture and mentality that deems rape victims as “vessels”.
Bollywood, over the years, has often gotten everything wrong in terms of sexual assault and VAW with heroes who show off their heroics by stalking, molesting and “wooing” women and propagating the notion that a woman’s dignity lies in her vagina. While the industry pays no heed to law and morality while portraying the typical hero-villain chases, they are adamant on showing the life of rape victims as “realistically” as possible. After facing the row received by Kaabil from liberal media, Hrithik jumped in to defend the rape depicted in the film.
“This is the depiction of human reality… Where sometimes in our life, (even) I felt that there is no reason to go on. (You feel) so low and down that you fail to see any prospect of a happy future. Many of us have been through adversities where it seems like ‘This is the end and one can’t go on’. While some of us succumb to it, some of us don’t.
“This is the story of a simple, sweet girl who goes through so much, not once, but twice – and she, unfortunately, succumbs to it. On the other hand, it is also the story of a man who fights for justice, love, life, truth, and that is the brightness. After something bad, the good happens, and this is what the film is all about.”
via Hindustan Times
India is a land of hero worshipping. People follow stars so immensely threat they not only install temples in their names but they also imitate whatever is depicted on screen. While item numbers are generally included in arguments on how Bollywood is contributing to the rise in the number of VAW crimes, the deeds of heroes who have a million followers, are never scrutinized.
Hrithik’s character as a husband and lover failed as Yami’s character Supriya killed herself. If this is the human reality that the filmmakers are trying to show then, in blunt words, I, as a woman, am tired of seeing this reality which is shown in Bollywood over the years along with victim blaming and slut shaming.
The reason why rape is seen as one of the worst things that could happen to a woman is due to the improper treatment and lack of necessary rehabilitation. Men do not commit rape solely for their satisfaction but to dominate or to silence the woman. If a woman is vociferous then how to silence her? Simple. Use your penis as the knife. The social status of a rape survivor is so reduced that they are asked to die rather than to face all the humility. A woman’s identity is reduced to the painful incident; Padmavati committed Jauhar because she saw her “honour” as more important than life, because of which she is hailed as a hero.
With films propagating this further, women will find it difficult to report an incident, face humiliation and powerful people will continue to show off. Look at what current leader of the free world said. Male survivors are not treated any better and Bollywood continue to show them in comical context; in Dostana for eg.
It is only last year when a film named Udta Punjab (2016) showed a character, played by Alia Bhatt, with integrity. She is an unnamed woman who has been through many difficulties and traumas, yet she shouts into the air “I am still here, standing here. I will not break. No matter how you try, I am here and I won’t break“. I was glad that she expressed her hatred towards her drug addiction instead on blaming herself for being “raped”. She is able to move on with a smile at the end when things were neutralized. Similarly, Highway (2014) and Kahaani 2 (2016) showed the plight of child abuse survivors while Pink (2016) showed three women fighting back at the system that suppressed them, in spite of the problems within the narrative.
This movie was touted as a pathbreaking narrative with a social message. However, it simply ended up perpetuating anti-social message – . This makes it no different from the likes of “22 Female Kottayam”, “Ghajini”, “Puthiya Niyamam” which all indirectly campaigned for capital punishment for rapists with the same statement highly in the plot. It is high time that influential stars use their voice for the betterment. Tell rape survivors that it is not their fault. Stop tagging women who have been assaulted as “vessels” and with “maa-behen” philosophy and treat them as individuals. Stop including sexual assault and harassment in a comical context. With voice and power comes great responsibility. Women deserve to see better and rape survivors (whether it is men, women or children) who watch this film deserve better.