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‘Secret Superstar’ And The Not So Secret Problem Of Domestic Abuse

Posted by Ishmeet Nagpal in Culture-Vulture
October 23, 2017

“Secret Superstar” introduces us to a loving mother whose teenage daughter, Insiya dreams of being a singer. The problem is the ‘man’ of the house, her husband, who often storms in and finds fault with everything. He would unleash his voice on her and tried to cut off Insiya from her dreams by uprooting the strings of her guitar.

Insiya channels her grief and frustration by punching walls and breaking her laptop while her little brother, Guddu would use his love and innocence to make their lives better.

In a heartbreaking scene, he even tries to fix Insiya’s laptop with some tape and glue. In another scene, he tries to direct the wrath of his father onto himself rather than Insiya. This shows us that no matter how young children are, they feel things deeply and are not just passive observers.

It is said that when all doors close, a window does open. This is when Insiya escapes through that window and makes solo trips to Mumbai to take matters into her own hands. She goes to consult a lawyer to find out the kind of options her mother has.

However, I do wish that we had more insight into Insiya’s father’s character. He showed his power at home through violence. I would have liked to see him interact with people he perceived to be more powerful than him. We could have enjoyed a contrast in his behaviour.

This movie also helps us understand the perspective of women who are trapped in abusive relationships. Our society always tends to put the onus of standing up to abuse on the victim.

“If he was so abusive, why didn’t she leave him? Why didn’t she speak up?” 

As a society, it is our responsibility to create an environment of unconditional support and offer alternatives while letting people take their own decisions. If an overbearing and borderline pervasive character like Shakti Kumaarr (played by Aamir Khan) can find it in his heart to empathise with Insiya and her mother without foisting a “Be brave and leave him” on them, we who call ourselves ‘woke’ can definitely find some sensitivity in our hearts to not judge them.

The heartwarming interactions between Insiya and her friend Chintan offer us a rare romance portrayed in all its innocence. Insiya’s mother allows her to go out with Chintan, empowering Insiya with her trust. Chintan brings her home to his mother and they sit on a table together and enjoy mangoes.

I remember the days when a single call on the landline from a boy would mean an hour long lecture by our parents on how it’s not good to talk to boys. Teenagers have feelings and hormones. They will form bonds with the person they are attracted to. Rather than placing endless restrictions on them, if families could welcome their friends and boyfriends/girlfriends into their homes, it would cause far less distraction as it would when all they have to think about is sneaking around.

But I do feel this utopian world is still not within our reach. With honour killings and forced marriages making news headlines, maybe one movie can’t make a big difference in mindsets. But it does make a dent, it does try, and that is beautiful.