Thursday, March 5, 2015

India's Daughter (2014)

Director: Leslie Udwin
Writer:    Leslie Udwin

The BBC Storyville documentary film is based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year old female. It was supposed to be aired by BBC in UK and by NDTV in India on March 8th, The International Women's Day, but was brought forward to be aired last night after the Indian government resorted to banning the film in India, giving even more credibility to its fascist nature.

I had recently seen one BBC documentary (1984-A Sikh Story) on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India after Indira Gandhi assassination. That one was presented by an NRI Sikh TV presenter whom kind of hijacked the story by giving a silly arc about her regaining faith and all which looked incredibly phoney. So I feared the same for this documentary when I learned that the director, Leslie Udwin, was herself a rape victim. The fear was misplaced as she remains completely in the background with her letting the people she is interviewing telling what is in their mind which in itself tells the whole story. The impression that it leaves is the extreme patriarchal nature of Indian society and gender inequality that comes with it. This is evident in the words of Mukesh, one of the rapists, whom resort to victim blaming without expressing much remorse. It is something that is quite common in India and also around the world, with the most recent example being some of the reactions towards the Charlie Hebdo incident. When reports based on interview transcript with Mukesh came out this week, us liberals were not at all surprised since these rapes are just symptoms of the problem and when you deal with these rapists you are all curing the symptoms and not the cause. When people started clamoring for the ban of its screening, their supposed reasoning was that it amounts to insulting 'Nirbhaya' (ironic since the actual name of the rape victim is Jyoti). Then it emerged that her parents are in full support of the documentary and wants everyone to see it. The real reason for its detractors' squeamishness is that the arguments that Mukesh and his defense team makes are very much the standard ones issued by the Moral Policing assholes in India. The following Newlaundry interview of Manohar Lal Sharma, the defense lawyer,  will confuse you into thinking whether to laugh or cry.

I have seen some people criticizing the defense lawyers for taking up the case and it is ludicrous because that is how Judiciary is supposed to work. You can criticize him for his arguments but not for taking the case. Another one of them is shown in the documentary to stand by his statements that if one of her daughters is to cross the supposed line, he will personally burn her alive. They are just reflection of the large majority from our society and it is better for us to confront this reality and try to address it rather than shoot the messenger, by banning the film. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it is good that the government banned it because that is an even bigger sign of the problems and the ensuing controversy will attract even more attention to itself when it comes to its heads in the sand approach as well as the threats to 'Freedom of Speech & Expression' in India. Well done, Mr. Modi and Rajnath Singh-you just dug yourself into a big hole.

One minor criticism I could make is that it focuses only on the gender inequality aspect and not on the other could be contributing factor that is sexual repression. It does come up in a minor fashion when Mukesh talks about him having had sex only once before. It is not fair to criticize the makers for that because they are not trying to push any agenda but just want the people to tell their own story. On the whole it will be much more shocking to its Western audience but is something that should be shown to Indian people so that it could lead to some introspection. Another BBC storyville documentary from last year, Blackfish, led to Seaworld's losing 33% its market value and led to the resignation of its CEO. Hope this one also make some impact. It is laughable that the government is seeing some western conspiracy to defame India with this. Don't make us an even bigger laughing stock as we are just about recovering from the Modi suit.

Rating: 5/5