Indian Cinema Can Help Save Future Nirbhayas
While rapes and gang rapes are not new to the world, the Nirbhaya gang rape shook the entire humankind to the core. With uncountable rape cases reported every few days, videos of gruesome acts going viral on social networks (not to speak of the cases that go unreported), and some allegedly politically-motivated rape controversies debated in the media, India has now been branded globally as the Rape Capital of the world. We Indians may seethe and vehemently cry out at the unfair labeling, but sadly, the name once tarnished will not be cleared so easily.
The reasons for these assaults have too often been delved into by several experts as well as the moral police, including political leaders. I do not seek to throw a pebble into the sea of the expansive wisdom; though being a woman, I may heartily wish to pound some sense into the many male chauvinists who so easily blame women for man’s gruesome, repugnant lust.
The Indian mentality of man being superior to woman is the primary reason for this atrocity. While the world is fast waking up to gender equality, quite a few Indian males find the idea unpalatable. They want to show women “their place”; they want to reassert that they are, and will always be, the master, and woman their “daasi” or slave. These men do not brook a “No” for an answer. Rape is a power game!
Though not the sole factor, Indian cinema has had a big hand in creating a mindset of “No means Yes”. (Now, I can see the entire film fraternity standing up in arms against this allegation!) Remember movies like Anjana from the 60s, Jawani Deewani from the 70s, Coolie and Mard from the 80s, Shola aur Shabnam from the 90s… to the very recent Judwaa and Baahubali? The list of movies where the hero harasses the heroine until she falls in love with him can go on and on! The aam Indian male, who idol-worships these heroes, emulates their example. The roadside romeo envisions himself as the filmi hero, and his disgustingly repulsive actions as herogiri! The film fraternity, of course, refuses to accept any part of the blame even as girls all over India are still being pestered and stalked by eve-teasers.
Do you remember the impact of movies like Rang de Basanti that had the entire generation of Indian youth teeming with patriotic fervor and zeal? Remember how students decided to follow their passion after they watched 3 Idiots? Would you still deny that movies strongly influence impressionable minds?
However, my objective here is not to play the blame game. Having established the power of cinema, I beseech the creative masters of the powerful visual media to employ this influence positively; to slowly and steadily steer the mindset of the country to respecting women. Indian cinema and television must wake up to the power they behold, and use it to lead the nation constructively.
We need to subtly change the narrative of our stories such that the viewer accepts equality of the genders as a norm. It is normal in today’s world for a husband to speak as respectfully to his wife as she speaks to him, rather than in a condescending manner. So is raising a son and a daughter as equals. Yet, the psyche of many Indian males is stuck in the era when mothers called their sons Joru ka gulam if they listened to the wife, or when wife-beating was macho. There are still many households where the girl child is aborted, where the daughter is treated as inferior to sons, where the female is born to serve the male. Indian cinema must strive to gain access to the root of this thought system, changing it at the core.
Yes, we do have a Dangal and a Queen now and then, but we need several more stories where the men are depicted to have a strong value system; where it is macho to respect every woman, be it their sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, or a neighbor or a stranger; stories where the woman is free of gender biases, of sexist pressures, and is capable of taking her own decisions; stories that accord her not the pedestal of a Devi, but the equal grounds of a balanced world. The Indian beti and bahu need an equal chance to fly.
Indian cinema and television must willfully take up the challenge to inculcate a value system of respect for women through their stories, while also showing in poor light the characters that do not conform to the reformed social values. We need to nip the bud of this evil in the bud, and Indian cinema must carry the message forward consciously and conscientiously!
-- Sangeeta Manocha
Sangeeta Manocha is a freelance Writer and Editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She has written for various national magazines and newspaper advertorials, including The Times of India, Savvy, Woman’s Era. She also helps aspiring students with their Statement of Purpose, CV, and LoRs. She blogs at https://sgmdilse.wordpress.com