ByÂ Saumya Sahni:
Who can answer this question better than the women of India themselves? Ashok Prasad’s hard- hitting documentary titled, “India: a Dangerous Place to be a Woman” poses some thought provoking issues regarding the appalling status of women in our country. This documentary reinforces the fact that not only Indians but also women from outside nations who come to visit our country take with them memories of sexual harassment instead of memories of the time spent in the country learning about India. A poignant account by Prasad here!
The story unfolds with the introduction of the protagonist, Radha Bedi who is an NRI and has come to visit for a second time in her life but this is the very first time when she is venturing out alone in the country. A gripping reality hits you when the mother of the protagonist asks her to take care of herself since she doesn’t trust anyone in the country right in the first sequence of the film. The conversation between the mother and the daughter gives a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu when my mother living in the same country asks me to take care of myself even when I am stepping out into an area unfamiliar in Delhi itself. Quite a realistic take on how imperative it becomes for a girl to become the guard of her own self!
At first, it does become a bit difficult for the viewers to engage with Radha since she is of a British India origin and it does take some time for her to establish that connection with the viewers. Also, at a lot of junctures, Radha does seem lost when it comes to narrating sensitive sequences. Emotions could have been portrayed well since the protagonist here doesn’t really appeal much to the sensibilities of the Indian viewer especially the women. This can be clearly observed when she is interacting with the victims of heinous crimes. It comes across as if she has just gone for a tete-a-tete with them.
The element which kept me hooked to this 57-minute documentary was the way many stereotypes around women have been entwined in the film. It is talking not only about the crimes but is also revealing the mindsets of the society which drive the crimes. How a woman is supposed to compromise all her ambitions after her marriage to keep her in-laws happy, the dowry aspect in a marriage, the atrocities levied on a woman if she gives birth to a girl child by her in-laws leave you shuddered. One scene where the Assamese girl who was filmed by a local journalist being gang raped is talking to the protagonist on the camera leaves me surprised at her emotional strength. Ditto can be said for the 14 year old acid attack victim. Bravo to both of these girls who braved all odds and spoke on camera telling their story to the world.
One will really get goose bumps on hearing the remarks made by the former defence lawyer of the accused in the Delhi gang rape case. According to him, a respectable women can never get raped, these crimes are inflicted only on women with lose characters. How sickening can this get? We aspire to battle the existing patriarchal treatments of society. How do we think this can be done when we have people like these who judge characters on the basis of the clothes one puts on or the odd hours which one chooses to travel or the company which one chooses to hang out with? Simply, we have a lot of misplaced thoughts here which will take more than a lifetime to subside. All these aspects have been highlighted beautifully in the film.
The climax of the film which includes the protagonist’s fight for justice on her visit to India could have been filmed better. The entire filming of the shot looked damp. Also, the end sequence where the girl says that she is happy to leave India might not go down well with many sections of the Indian society.
All in all, this one is surely a must watch for the ones who do not seem to know the intricacies of the patriarchal system in India. A lot of in-depth importance has been given to how the society works here which takes the documentary to many notches higher on the reviewing scale. Superb job by Ashok Prasad!