When I saw the first rushes of Ranjhanaa before the movie was released, the dialogues seemed jarring to my ears and sensibility. Besides seeming politically incorrect and skewed against women, they looked like they would land up glamourizing the very acts of stalking and eve-teasing that the national upsurge sparked by the Nirbhaya incident had aimed to address through the more recent amendments to the law regarding women.
There were lines like “Mere peeche scooter mei baithna padega. Mein brake maarunga toh mujhpe girna padega. Mere saath naachna-gaana padega. Girlfriend na sahi…feel hi dede.” Each time, the minor-hero Dhanush stalks, tries to chat up the minor-female lead Sonam, then both in school, she slaps him and…he breaks into a jig. For the record, stalking and eve-teasing classify as offences under Section 354 (A) and 354 (D) and invite imprisonment and fine.
The film is replete with a host of suggestive lines thrown in to detail the dogged determination with which men in that belt chase reluctant women till they either relent or relent. By the way, under Section 5B(2) of The Cinematograph Act, the Central Government has laid down guidelines that direct the Central Board of Film Certification to ensure that
i) anti-social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified
ii) the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence are not depicted;
iii) scenes –
a. showing involvement of children in violence as victims or perpetrators or as forced witnesses to violence, or showing children as being subjected to any form of child abuse.
b. showing abuse or ridicule of physically and mentally handicapped persons; and
c. showing cruelty to, or abuse of animals, are not presented needlessly
iv) pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment and such scenes as may have the effect of de-sensitising or de-humanising people are not shown.
The Board seems to be addressing superficial and overtly shocking depiction of women and violence in cinema but fails, over and over again, in laying down guidelines in sync with ground reality.
It is often argued that the Indian audience has aged and matured over the years. But then, the question here isn’t about a maturity of an audience. Often, Article 19 that guarantees Freedom of Speech and Expression is invoked. That Freedom isn’t absolute but subject to limitations of public morality and law and order. What was even more disturbing than the fact that nobody objected about these portions in the film was that each time the protagonist belted out his one-liners, the crowds, mostly from the same zone lauded in unison.
Back to Ranjhanaa – “UP mein aise hi hota hai,” said one who couldn’t suppress his mirth. “Ladke aise hi ladkiyon ke peeche pad jaate hain,” he added. In a democracy we get what we deserve. The dusty badlands of rural India are known for their Khaps and hardnosed leaders who endorse an archaic patriarchal view rife among the residents of the zone.
As opposed to feature films, documentaries come with a rider: They’re modeled on fact. When feature films transgress into that zone – they assume fictional license and take a bit of fact blend it with fiction and dramatise things. Now, the issue of worry here is that when we’re discussing a film that borders on reality, it has to be created with a lot of care and caution just so that any message that goes out doesn’t defeat the purpose of law or social order.
The transgression, often, is one of overstepping creative license rather than breaking the law. In this case as in many others, the onus of employing foresight or social responsibility rests upon those associated with the ‘creative work’. Of pertinence here would be to note that the most brutal in the Nirbhaya incident, a minor then may well be free today, owing to a lacuna in the law governing minors; and that, within months of the offence which led to the death of the victim.
The whole of India was in a state of shock when it learned that the perpetrator who yanked out the victim’s intestines with his bare hands was a minor and would be free within months when he turned major. That was in last December. That was followed by tumultuous campaigns in Delhi and elsewhere forcing the state to amend the law on eve-teasing, acid attacks and other crimes against women.
And within six months, you’ve not only got Ranjhanaa that trivializes even romanticizes a minor’s eve-teasing escapades. The Censor Board clears the film, the National Women Commission looks the other way and the audiences love it! And that will go on…till another gang attack occurs and we embark on finger-pointing analysis, virulent campaigns against the state and police and so on and forth.
Image Source : IANS