Sanjay Gupta’s 2017 film “Kaabil”, a Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam starrer, is a story of love, separation and revenge. A pretty common Bollywood plot, right? But, this one is different because the protagonists Supriya (Yami Gautam) and Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) are blind.
However, that’s not why this movie could have been path-breaking. No, this movie could have been path-breaking because of its portrayal of Supriya, whatever little of it there was.
Let me start by giving you a gist of the movie. Rohan and Supriya are two people who are blind, who are made to meet and get married. Most of the first half of the movie is dedicated to evolving their cute love story, getting the audience to connect with them. They get married, but shortly after, Supriya gets raped by two abysmal men. Supriya and Rohan try to get a sexual assault examination done but are kidnapped. The very next day, Supriya gets raped again and ultimately commits suicide, reasons for which we shall discuss further in this article. Rohan, torn by her suicide, decides to take matters into his own hands and ends up killing the two rapists and the elder brother of the one who supported and even encouraged the act.
Now, some of you may find this to be a pretty common Bollywood plot, except for the fact that the characters are blind. But, let me tell you, there was another key aspect in the film — Supriya. She was the strongest character in the movie, however, short lived.
Supriya was an independent woman and stayed the same throughout the movie. The strength of her character was made apparent by the simplest and the bravest of her actions.
For instance, Rohan gifts Supriya a watch. She goes on to show him a watch she already has, one that she bought from her first salary. Most of us, if faced with such a situation, would consider the two obvious options, which we would also think are our only ones— either removing the watch she already had or returning the watch Rohan gifted her. But not Supriya. She wears them both and I couldn’t be happier about it. To me, it signified that instead of leaving her own pride and independent self behind to adapt into her new life with Rohan, she rather adds him as an extension of her current self.
To say that Supriya becomes weak after she was raped would be utterly wrong. She was the woman who was raped and then kidnapped for 24 hours so she couldn’t get her sexual assault examination done, yet she didn’t lose herself in her grief. A scene where she is sitting with her husband in front of a corrupt police officer who accuses them of being frauds, she says to her husband “Mere saath rape hua, ab yeh tumhare saath bhi wahi kar rahe hai.” (I’ve been raped and now they’re doing the same to you.) This is one of the most impactful dialogues in the movie, rightly depicting not just their situation but also Supriya’s levelheadedness.
Not just that, later when they’re back at home, Supriya tells her husband she would leave the house and go back to her old life and job if he doesn’t feel the same way about her now that she had been violated. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is downright strong for me. For a rape survivor to have the strength to pick herself up, to not live in a relation with someone who is not comfortable with her, displays strength.
Until this point, “Kaabil” seemed to be going in the right direction, but from the moment Supriya commits suicide and her note is found, everything goes downhill. Rape is treated as nothing but a plot device leading to a ‘justified’ revenge. It’s all about Rohan and his vengeance.
In her suicide note, Supriya explains to Rohan how she’d been visited by her rapists for the second time with a promise of more future visits; how she is ending this by taking her life because she knew Rohan would be devastated by this and she didn’t want to put him through it. So, you’re telling me the rape survivor commits suicide in this movie, not because of her own trauma and fear but because her husband would be wrecked by repeated atrocities against his wife? Oh, I am sorry, I thought she was the individual who was raped, but guess not! What were the people involved in the making of this film even thinking? It’s not always about the man; it’s high time someone tells them this.
“Kaabil” could have been a pioneering movie in the history of Bollywood had it focused more on Supriya and her survival, instead of using rape as merely a plot device. This isn’t how we need Bollywood to treat the sensitive issue of rape. Strong characters like Supriya deserve to be the centre of such movies, not the supporting roles.