No Means No

PINK is one of the celebrated Bollywood movies of the recent times. Right from sexual harassment against women to stereotyping against north-easterners, the movie walks us through the ugliness that continue to persist and remain acceptable in the Indian society. With just one simple yet powerful phrase, the movie slaps the truth our faces.

The best thing that I liked about the movie is that the protagonists are no super women. They are ordinary yet brave and progressive women working hard to carve their way out on a difficult world.  Be it the sexual harassment, the misuse of power, the corrupt officers, the politicians, the legal battles or the social ostracizing,the challenges that they encounter are very much real.The kind of challenges that they face have happened either with us or with the people we know. That proximity to reality is probably what made me weep unstoppable and unmindful of the surroundings while watching the movie. The only few times when I felt the movie was non-conforming to reality  was when such a renowned lawyer fights a difficult case for free or when the judge seemed like a really kind and tolerant one to see through the truth. Although there were few logical misses in the movie like Minal’s father sitting back and letting her friends help her while his daughter is being wronged, the owner of the flat not being called to the witness box etc., these can surely be ignored. I say ignore, because the message that the movie sends out to the society is loud and clear – No means No and that is very important.

Released a week after PINK, Parched was acknowledged but soon lost amidst the applauds for PINK and cheers for Dhoni. May be because they were released back to back or because both the movies tell you the story of three women, it becomes inevitable to compare these movies. When I say compare, I am not really talking about the techniques of movie making, but about the stories of these women, their struggles and the emotions they stir in the audience.

At one end in PINK, we have three urban women who have the strength to break free the shackles that the society tries to confine them into. They are the authorities of their own rights and wrongs. But sometime I wonder if they are flies that rush towards a forest decorated with traps. Despite living in a city, their lives aren’t easy. Every morning sees them wake up to a new sort of challenge. Their challenges are rather different but nonetheless real. I do see myself in these women, when they break down midway through the struggle and later find the courage from within to fight back the atrocities.

On the other hand, in Parched, are three women in a desert village living within a world roofed by their veils. There is a young widow whose son turns out as much as a rogue like his father and an unfortunate young wife subject to domestic violence and humiliation for being ‘barren’. Friends with them is a dancer from the local dance company whom the men drool over giving all the more reason for their wives to detest her. Unwelcome in a social gathering, she is a rebel of her own sorts. Although I do not see myself in these women, they do look very familiar to me.

Among them is a young woman whose husband leaves her for another woman but she gets sexually assaulted by her in laws to the extent that she could not know for herself who fathered the child she had to abort. Also is there the mother of this young woman who had to force her daughter to go back to her in-laws despite all the cruelty meted out to her daughter dear. We have a teenage bride who chops off her beautiful curls hoping that would stop her marriage to a stranger and then the distressed damsel who wears obstinacy as her shield when she happens to see the true colors of her Prince Charming. Last but not the least we have a wife and mother who becomes best friends with a seductress who comes to drop her drunk husband home after a night’s stand and whom her son tries to sleep with, after years. The reality of these women are intriguing.

Challenges are not new to these women. Neither are they short of strength to face them. Yet, their challenges are a lot more difficult to deal with because they are two-sided. One part of their challenge is to deal with the society that tries to throttle them at every opportunity. The other part is the fight that they fight within themselves to rise above and beyond their shackles. Taking care of the mother of a man who abandoned you, rescuing a daughter-in-law from the clutches of a marriage and giving her the life she desires, claiming that to bear a child is every woman’s right and be determined that the man in your life must be the one who celebrates you etc takes a lot of nerve given where these women come from. Yet they do it with great will. Although I do not see myself in them, I am enthralled every time they overcome these challenges. I get overwhelmed as if I have won over these difficulties myself. When they break the bonds, set fire to the fetters and eventually embark on a journey that they hope will lead them to the place where they will be the authorities of their own rights and wrongs, I utter a sincere prayer – “Dear God, let them not be flies rushing towards a forest decorated with traps”

Read the Tamil version of this article here

Advertisements