IF THE REALITY IS SHAMEFUL, LEARN TO ACCEPT IT: NANDITA DAS ON INDIA'S DAUGHTER
The BBC documentary India's Daughter, directed and produced by Leslee Udwin, created quite a furore in the country. After the government banned the film, which tells the story of the infamousDecember 16 rape, it went viral on YouTube. The main grouse many raised against it was that the documentary, in which Udwin has interviewed one of the rapists Mukesh Singh, gives him a platform to justify his act. As usual, the internet is divided into two camps–one that is rampantly sharing the YouTube link to the documentary and the other that is congratulating the government on the ban agreeing to Home Minister Rajnath Singh's claim that the film is part of the white man's conspiracy to shame India. Unfortunately for those who haven't managed to watch it yet, the documentary has now been blocked by YouTube in India stating a court order which it received. Long Live Cinema spoke to actor-filmmaker Nandita Das about the documentary and the ban and here's what she had to say.
Ban deprives us of right to make a choice
Firstly, why ban this film or any film for that matter. The reason, as far as I know, the government has given is that one of the culprits and their lawyers are making misogynistic statements in the film and that defames us as Indians! This is ridiculous and it shows that they have clearly missed the point. I haven't seen the film yet, but from what I have heard from people who have seen it and from what I have read about it, India's Daughter, in fact, seems to be bringing to light the various realities of the society we live in. It has once again showed us that there are people like Mukesh Singh among us, who live around us. Even if we keep the debate on this particular documentary aside, I firmly believe that everybody has a right to watch and decide what they want to take away from it. With bans like this, the authorities are depriving us of our right to make a choice. In any case anybody can watch it online, so why the fuss.
Acknowledge the problem
Bringing back the documentary into the picture, the Nirbhaya case is one of the most important causes that united us in recent times. So many of us–men, women and children–took to the streets to demand a life of dignity for all women and for us to be able to live without fear anywhere in the country. Banning a documentary that is about this sensitive issue and forces us to see our misogynistic side is not even acknowledging the problem.
Face the shameful reality
Another thing I don't understand is this argument about India's Daughter being a propaganda film to shame India in front of the world. I have also been accused of doing this. When we began shooting for Water, some right-wing groups had the same problem. They said we were trying to paint an ugly picture of India to the world. Now, if the reality is shameful, how does shying away from facing it help? How does pushing it under the carpet and acting like nothing is wrong help? Is protecting an image more important than trying to alter the ugly reality? By banning the documentary, does the reality that there is violence against women in our society change? One woman is raped here every 20 minutes. It is a fact, and we better do something about it. It is high time we stopped worrying about images in the world, as they will change when the reality becomes better. Such films should make us introspect and find solutions do a deep-rooted problem. I am not fully aware of the legal implications of screening the film now and need to understand from the prominent lawyers and activists, but fundamentally they, too, don't support a ban. A ban is never the solution, but just an excuse to hide behind the violent, vulgar realities of our every day lives.
Photo Credit: Vidhi Thakur