3 Indian Films That Unabashedly Explore Sex, Sexuality And Women’s Oppression

The very word ‘sex’ intrigues us, and when a movie is certified with the rating ‘A’, we audiences feel all the more excited to watch that movie. Also, it is a fact that when a movie comes under the scrutiny of the censor board, not only the movie but the entire cast and crew become famous. We as a society are judgmental and we cannot deny the fact that we cannot talk sex openly, as we consider it a taboo.

I always feel connected to the characters when I watch a particular movie and given my choices, these movies differ from what is popular with the masses. I do not watch the movies that are box office hits – I prefer the ones which are low budget but have a message for society. Since my essay cannot cover all the genres I love, I chose three films which ventured into this interdicted category called “sex”, and oppression on women.

Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, 1992

Directed by Shyam Benegal and produced by NFDC, it was a low budget movie based on the novel by Dharmavir Bharati. The movie is narrated by the storyteller Manek Mulla, who narrates his journey revolving around three women at different points in his life.

One woman is intellectual and affluent, another from the middle class, and the last a poor one. Among all three women, Manek loved the poor lady though he denied it. The poor lady, Satti, lived with her uncle, toiled for money, and dreamt of a home of her own and a loving husband.

Though the movie had several intersecting stories, what caught my eyes was how a woman was sexually exploited. And that woman was none other than Satti. Maheshwar Dalal, a debauched businessman, sets his sight on Satti. Satti runs to Manek in the middle of the night to save herself from the clutches of Maheshwar Dalal, who had bribed her uncle in order to have sex with her. Manek doesn’t save her but instead watches silently as she is dragged by her uncle and Maheshwar Dalal and ultimately gets brutally raped by both.

The movie is a perfect example of a brutal patriarch society where the rich have power over the poor. And not just Satti – Maheshwar Dalal, on the death of his wife, brings another woman to his home as his mistress and enjoys having sex with her. When she comes to know that he has been eyeing Satti, she tries to confront Maheshwar Dalal, gets beaten up, and is ultimately thrown out of the house.

Shyam Bengal asserted in the movie that women are indeed oppressed, and the movie was a proof how a woman can be treated as a commodity. Sadly, even today, nothing has changed, and a man, a noted personality, can press my breasts standing in the middle of the road, then block me on social media, then unblock me and clarify that he is my friend. As I said, I connect with every character. I can see myself in Satti and that thoughtless womanizer in Maheshwar Dalal. I do not have any evidence that he pressed my breasts while talking, right in the middle of the road, avoiding the public glare, just like Satti lacked evidence.

So nothing has changed. Society still remains dominated by men. Satti couldn’t speak for herself, and neither can I, since no one will believe me. They will just point fingers at me, claiming that my body language had made him press my nipples.

Jara Bristite Bhijechhilo (Those Who Were Drenched In Rain), 2007

Directed by Anjan Das and based on a novel by Joy Goswami, Here again, are three intersecting stories which speak about sex, oppression of women, and lesbianism and bisexuality. The first woman, a naïve student, falls in love with her home tutor. He too professes love for her, until she realizes that her lover looks at her as merely an object, and has a hidden agenda to sell her ancestral home to a promoter for money. Though he has a physical relationship with her, he leaves her in a broken state of mind. She struggles to cope with the loss, but ultimately survives the blows life throws at her.

The second woman dreams of being a teacher and falls in love with a naïve poet, but due to financial constraints and ill treatment by her family, gets married off to a sadistic and impotent husband. He rapes her each night. She bears the stigma that she is a barren woman when in reality her husband is infertile. Unable to bear the fact that her husband, while mercilessly exploiting her, is also in an illicit relationship with another woman, she confronts him. He beats her ruthlessly, and she leaves the house. Her mother in law threatens her never to come back, and she doesn’t either.

The third and fourth women have been portrayed in a very different way. The third woman is a lesbian, and she is happy with her status, but the fourth woman goes for a physical relationship with her teacher, exploits the emotions of the naïve poet – the lover of the second woman – and also goes on to marry a millionaire.

In all these characters, I find myself. I find myself in the second woman, who has a sadistic husband, as I am a survivor of domestic violence. As I said, I feel one with the characters when I watch any movie.

Bow Barracks Forever, 2004

Directed by Anjan Dutt, this movie is based on the experiences of the Anglo-Indian Community residing in the Bow Barracks area, in a crowded corner of North Kolkata. Though the story revolves around their desperation to keep their dreams alive and struggle for money, it also depicted atrocities committed against women.

A smuggler beats and rapes his wife. Yet another huge naked potbellied man has sex with another woman, neglecting his wife. An aged lady aches for her son who has abandoned her. I feel an uncanny connection to that neglected wife, whose husband prefers having sex with another woman, who has a naïve husband – a teacher who loves his wife.

I listed these films as a message to this patriarchal, misogynistic society that we women are still oppressed. I have been abused so many times, physically and mentally. I was tortured to an extent that in my place someone else would surely have had a mental breakdown. That donkey who calls himself a noted personality pressed my nipples – what could I do? Will I get justice? I have no evidence, no proof, and no marks on my nipples either. And that was just the physical part – what about the mental agonies? Who should I approach in that case? And not just me – there are several women like in those movies who are raped, tortured, groped, and then thrown away or treated like doormats.

There have been several instances where I was treated like crap by both men and women. So I say no to oppression, and I seek justice for each torture/abuse hurled at me.

The above filmmakers all have cognitive abilities that allow them to portray a woman, her sexuality and her oppression, and thus make the masses connect ourselves with those characters. I caution that man who pressed my breasts in the middle of the road, who blocked me after that episode, and then unblocked and clarified that he is my friend. I, too, seek justice through this essay of mine. The world says women are equal. Then let society stop those atrocities on women. That guy who pressed my nipples is scot-free. I will not rest till I see his hands chopped off for what he did to me.

Those movies had a message, and so do I. I say to all women – speak up, say no to abuse, say no to oppression, share your stories, and do not let men overpower you.