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Rape, Violence and Movies: India needs more responsible cinema  

Updated Tuesday January 01, 2013

Indian Cinema, Rape and Violence in Movies, Responsible Cinema  
"As per researches, watching violent movies and media content harms a child's psychological development, and is also harmful for adults. In some cases, it may change their perceptions for life and develop a sense of insecurity where they may see the world as an unsafe, potentially threatening place instead of somewhere they can love and be loved, thrive, and contribute meaningfully to humanity."  
Basudev Mahapatra  

Years back, when I was in a Bhubaneswar based slum, near the city railway station, I saw two child rag-pickers quarrelling on some issues. What was interesting in their enraged conversation was the way they wanted to hurt each other physically even though none of them actually assaulted the other physically. I heard one threatening to give a blow to the other in the style of Hindi film hero Sunny Deol in Ghayal while the other boy immediately replied to retaliate in the style of Nana Patekar in Krantiveer. Had it been in the recent past, their choices would be Ajay Devgan in Singham, Salman Khan in Davang or a south Indian star giving hard blows to the rivals on the screen.

Is it the choice of entertainment in our young generation changing or the stuff we are offering have changed drastically being motivated by the desire of making records in terms of commercial success?


In my early days of journalism while reading the book ‘Solay’ by Anupama Chopra (I still have it as one of my collections), I came across the fact that the scene where Gabbar Singh chopped off the hands of Thakur delayed the release of the film because Censor Board objected to the scene terming it as portrayal of violence in the most shocking manner. But today, we see many films portraying such violence in further shocking manner and they are obtaining a certificate for public viewing. In fact, the difference between ‘U’ and ‘U/A’ certificate has narrowed to a thinnest divide.

Violence and Rape become major attractions

While there have been strictures on scenes showing someone smoking or consuming alcohol, showing violence, rape and scenes where atrocities are done to woman in domestic situations seem to be growing in Indian Cinema and TV. Hindi dubbed south Indian movies are now the preferential choice of youth on entertainment TV channels because of bold fight scenes and glamorous presentation of female leads. Most of us have the examples in our home itself where the young kids switch to an action channel or a movie channel showing a Hindi dubbed south Indian cinema at every ad-break on the cartoon channels. When, once, I asked my son - "what attracts you to such movies and channels", his reply was: "the fight scenes were too interesting as a punch here makes one fly in the air and hit the walls."

Even scenes of chopping off limbs and slitting at someone’s neck are most common in those films. Now, some of the Hindi films are also adapting to the same and many of the Hindi films released recently are remake of South Indian movies where the primary attraction is extremely bold fight scenes.

While torturing young women in domestic situations, showing harassments – both emotional and physical, making one sob with unimaginable helplessness have become a common stuff in TV serials, showing eve-teasing, application of force on women and torturing and raping women by use of force and power have become more frequent in Hindi cinema in last few decades.

Conflict between message and attraction

While such scenes of violence are justified in the name of the depiction of real situations and ultimate message given at the climax, the message never remains the attraction of the movie. But what remains the real attraction of most movies are the scenes of fight, violence and brutality. And, more than the message, the forceful presentation of violence and brutality influence the mind of many youth who never bother about the final message of the film. Lines of movie Songs like ‘Ati kya Khandala’, ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’ are rather used by eve-teasers even though the situations of the songs in the respective films are not like that. Similarly, some of the filmgoers are also inspired by scenes depicted as wrongs or acts of evil. I still remember the reactions of some young viewers of the 2004 movie ‘Garv’ (starring Amrish Puri, Salman Khan, Farida Jalal, Arbaaz Khan, Akanksha Agrawal and others) where one viewer told after coming out of the theatre that he only remembered the fight scenes, the only scene of gang-rape and the court scene at the end.

Taking example of Yash Johar's Duplicate (1998), Sangita Datta also wrote in her paper titled ‘Globalisation and Representations of Women in Indian Cinema’, “the fun and frivolity of the song and dance sequence even sanctions explicitly sexual gestures. In one situation where the duplicates have switched roles, the gangster tries to seduce the heroine and to the tune of a light hearted song, pulls her saree and gropes her. This form of retrogressive representation in a country where women are constantly battling against physical violation and sexual harassment is seriously alarming as it trivialises real issues which affect women in their day to day lives. Here is instance of a global (read western) image used with a 'mis'-reading or 'non'-reading of a cultural context.” (Social Scientist, Vol. 28, No. 3/4, Mar – Apr 2000, pp. 71-82)

Now, a very simple question about the ‘Dirty Picture’, what was the secret of its overwhelming success? What was the message through dialogues like ‘there are many stars in the industry, but you (character played by Vidya Balan) are the only hero’?

Blaming movies and TV shows for Rapes in India

A recent report from an Indian news agency, IANS, that was carried by some of the leading newspapers of India raised the question if explicit movie scenes and double-meaning songs and dialogues incite sexual violence.

While some agreed to the argument a few of the film fraternity members didn’t fully agree to such an opinion. As quoted in the report, Milan Luthria, Director of ‘Dirty Picture’ said in disagreement to such an argument, “I think it is unfair to make such an allegation about movies and songs. I take great offence. We need to look at our society and culture and how we live. Let's focus on real issues.

In the same report, a Psychologist Neha Patel, while agreeing with the general perception that television and films do influence people, said that a vivid display of the consequences of rape can help in reducing such crime. "We have seen how ads send out subtle messages. When films show rape scenes, they often focus on the suffering of the girl instead of showing the consequences borne by the man," she was quoted in the said report.

However, scientific researches confirm that violent scenes in movies and television shows have greater impact on functioning of the brain and thus the subsequent activities of the viewers.

As per researches, watching violent movies and media content harms a child's psychological development, and is also harmful for adults. In some cases, it may change their perceptions for life and develop a sense of insecurity where they may see the world as an unsafe, potentially threatening place instead of somewhere they can love and be loved, thrive, and contribute meaningfully to humanity.

Laws and strictures are no answers

Movies may not lead to rape directly, but depiction of violence in movies certainly adds stress, impacts the mind and, thus, some of the subsequent activities of the audience.

To make the movies less stressing for its audience and to keep their impact constructive than enraging or disturbing, more laws or strictures are no answers because they may have adverse impact on various creative aspects of the most modern art form including that of presenting an idea more creatively.

But what the nation looks for is a more responsible presentation of ideas in Indian cinema that shows, even, real situations and issues without portraying much of physical violence, helplessness and atrocities in the extreme form, violence against women in domestic or other situations. By and large, Indian Cinema must display its social responsibility. And, to our relief, we have so many of good movies in India that have achieved exceptional commercial success!


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