On June 22, 2020, the Madras High Court acquitted Chinnasamy, who was the main accused in the Sankar honour killing case. The incident took place in 2016 and shook the conscience of the people in Tamil Nadu as well as outside. Sankar, a Dalit man, married Chinnasamy’s daughter, Kausalya, who belongs to the Thevar community. The couple got married despite facing much opposition. One day, they were attacked by armed men in broad daylight. Sankar succumbed to his injuries while Kausalya, after fighting for her life in the hospital, survived.
A District Sessions court in 2017, based on her statement and evidence gathered by the police, announced capital punishment for Chinnasamy and five men involved in the case.
Now, a division bench of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar acquitted Chinnasamy of all charges and gave life imprisonment to the five men who were hired to kill the couple. This move was widely condemned by anti-caste activists because it leaves Kausalya vulnerable to more threats.
The reason why I brought this case up is that, apart from my intention to mention the horrifying travesty of justice, it was the same day Bollywood filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma decided to make a film about Pranay murder case.
I was going through Twitter when I saw the poster of his film Murder which depicts a father and daughter together with the caption, “This is going to be a heart-wrenching story based on the Amrutha and Maruthi Rao saga of the DANGERS of a father LOVING a daughter too much… Launching the poster of a SAD FATHER’S film on HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.”
This is going to be a heart wrenching story based on the Amrutha and Maruthi Rao saga of the DANGERS of a father LOVING a daughter too much ..Launching the poster of a SAD FATHER’S film on HAPPY FATHER’S DAY #MURDERlove pic.twitter.com/t5Lwdz3zGZ
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) June 21, 2020
Before that, he shared the pictures of the real Amrutha and her father Maruthi Rao, sharing that he intended to make a film about their life.
Amrutha’s husband Pranay, who was a Dalit, was brutally murdered in 2018. Amrutha was pregnant with their first child at the time. The case left her as well as the masses shaken. I remember the calls for justice for days, and the investigation led to Maruthi Rao and uncle Shravan Kumar.
RGV tweeted that the film will cover dilemmas “1. on limit of a father’s control over his child. 2. Should a daughter be ignored even if she’s presumably ignorant about what’s good for her? 3. Can it be justified to take someone’s life in order to better someone else’s life?”
Caste-based atrocities are often backed by the notion of chastity and purity that are fed by ego and patriarchal ideas that regard women as the “honour” of the family. Honour is defined as long she is a “good daughter” and a “good wife.”
The socially constructed idea that a woman loses her honour if she doesn’t adhere to the overall ideas of chastity is often used as a weapon to control her agency. Added to that, marginalised class or caste people are further dehumanised. This is probably why the man who married a women from a privileged caste is killed brutally; in some cases, both are killed.
Calling an accused’s act of violence as “love” only furthers the dehumanisation of the marginalised caste man who paid with his life. After all, every birth is accidental, and bigotry is taught by those around us for generations.
This year, Tamil film Draupathi, directed by Mohan G., garnered major success and it has a horrifying casteist storyline. It showed that marginalised caste men purposefully try to lure in privileged class women to increase their social status. Women are shown as properties that need to “saved” just like land. Amidst the rise in the number of honour killings, a movie like this added insult to the injury in a society that worships cinema and sees it as a medium of inspiration. Tamil Nadu, as a state, is known for people dressing up and imitating their heroes.
Honour killing has been reported in several parts of the country. In Kerala, a Dalit Christian man named Kevin was lynched for marrying out of caste. In 2018, a man murdered his daughter Swathi as well as Nandhish, a 25-year-old Dalit youth, for getting married and threw their bodies into a river in Tamil Nadu. During the lockdown, M. Sudhakar, a 24-year-old of the Oddar caste (classified under Most Backward Castes), was killed in similar circumstances.
Ram Gopal Varma sent out a series of tweets trying to defend his film, saying that it was too early to judge and that it was only “inspired by real life.”
At the same time, the girl who is featured in the poster has a black mole on her chin, which is similar to real-life Amrutha. RGV even shared the “real pic” along with his reel posters. More than anything else, in one of his posters, the girl looks manipulative and unapologetic, instead of loving. He kept reiterating in several tweets the film as a “sad father’s love” which led to violence. RGV also did not specify if he has the consent of the people involved to make the film, especially Amrutha and Pranay’s families.
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) June 23, 2020
Earlier this year, Maruthi Rao was found dead in his home, and as per reports, he died by suicide.
Since then, I began to notice a change in the tone of the people. Amrutha started facing dehumanization and was blamed for not “listening to her father.” She tried to take part in her father’s funeral but was shunned out. Coincidentally, Kausalya had met Amrutha after the latter’s husband Pranay was murdered in front of her.
It is no surprise that Ram Gopal Varma announced this film after all of that, but since there is an honour killing or caste-based atrocity attached to this film, it is something that the director should seriously reconsider unless he intends to propagate the same idea.