Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: India’s Daughter, a Documentary

Direction: Leslee Udwin
Produced by: Leslee Udwin
Written by: Leslee Udwin
Based on: Delhi Gang Rape (Nirbhaya incident)
Music: Krsna Solo
Edited by: Anuradha Singh
Distributed by: Berta Films
Duration: 58 minutes

India’a Daughter, a documentary by Leslee Udwin (it is part of BBC’s ongoing Storyville series), is based on Delhi Gang Rape of 2012. This is not my effort to review this documentary. I am just putting across my thoughts. With great angst, helplessness, lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I watched the whole documentary. The events were reconstructed to show the incident which occurred on 16th December, 2012. I have no clue, why Indian government tried to put a ban on its release in India (it was supposed to be broadcast on 8th March, 2015 on NDTV 24 X 7 and by BBC). BBC decided to prepone its broadcast to 5th March, 2015. The documentary has not projected India in bad light. It has not fabricated the truth. I went through loads of emotions while watching this documentary, felt the pain of Jyoti, pain of her parents, also loads of anger towards the attitude of the guilty, and defense lawyers.  

The Incident:
This incident had received huge national and international coverage and widely condemned in India and abroad. This incident is not unknown to any of us. A 23 year old Physiotherapy intern Jyoti Singh  was returning home after watching Life of Pi with her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey. Both of them boarded a private bus. She was beaten (even Awindra was beaten) and gang raped by six men – Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh (Ram and Mukesh were brothers), Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and a Juvenile. Jyoti succumbed to her injuries thirteen days later in Singapore hospital. This incident had generated lot of public protests against the state and central governments for failing to provide adequate security for women, even thousands of protesters clashed with security forces. All the accused were arrested and charged with sexual assault and murder. One of the accused Ram Singh died in police custody in Tihar Jail on 11th March, 2013. The rest of the accused went on trial in a fast-track court. The juvenile was convicted of rape and murder and given the maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment in a reform facility. The remaining four men were found guilty of rape and murder and sentenced to death by hanging on 10th September, 2013.    
Protests which followed this incident
Why the hue and cry over the documentary and why the ban:
The documentary states at the beginning that it has been made with the co-operation of Jyoti’s parents (even reveals her name). It covers the interviews of Jyoti’s parents, Mukesh (one of the guilty man), defence lawyers – ML Sharma and AP Singh, the person who first saw Jyoti and her friend lying naked and bleeding on the footpath (who got bedsheet and water from a hotel on the other side of the road), the police officers who investigated the case, the doctor who examined her, and also the families of the rapists, including the mother of the juvenile. The documentary also shows the interview of Kavita Krishnan who says, how the protests happened.

Mukesh, one amongst the guilty
It is shocking to see Mukesh narrating the incident without any sense of guilt. No sense of regret is felt in his voice. He says that it was girl’s fault – “usne haath pair chalaya isliye humne usko maara”. According to him, she should have been silent and allowed them to rape her. Oh my God! What a sick mentality. He says, how they threw both of them before gleefully divvying up the belongings. One rapist got a pair of shoes, another scored a jacket. An item which was left behind was probably her intestines which they wrapped in a piece of cloth and pitched it through the window (Mukesh says: “unhone andar daalkar kuch nikala, shayad vo uska intestine tha). Mukesh even argues that the death penalty for rape could only be bad news for victims: “Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Especially the criminal types.” He is sitting very coolly without any visible expressions, when he was read out the list of Jyoti’s injuries – from bite marks to the removal of her intestines. Flicker of a smile playing on his lips actually irritated me. It is unnerving to see this unfazed Mukesh looking into the camera and narrating the happenings of that night as if he was narrating some film story. His manner of describing his fellow convicts and also about his dead brother and reiterating the thought that they needed to teach the girl and the boy a lesson is absolutely disgusting. This unapologetic misogyny is so disturbing.

ML Sharma, one of the Defence Lawyer
Another shocking thing was responses from the defence lawyers - ML Sharma and AP Singh. Their biases and prejudices are disturbing. No identity for females of their own according to these lawyers. They describe women in terms as disparate as diamonds, food and flowers – objectifying the female fraternity. Look at ML Sharma’s analogies and logics: “She should not be put out on the street just like food. The ‘lady’ in the other hand, we can say the ‘girl’ or the ‘woman’, are more precious than a gem, that a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep the diamond in your hand. If you put the diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can’t stop it.”  AP Singh is shown saying: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” Asked later if he stood by those comments, he insisted that he did. Do they even deserve to be lawyers?
Jyoti's Parents - Asha Singh and Badri Singh
It is so painful to see Jyoti’s parents Asha Singh and Badri Singh. Jyoti was the light of their lives, and now they don’t have clue, how to move ahead and leave behind the tragic death of her daughter. They are simply inconsolable. Her father Badri Singh tells Udwin: “I wish that whatever darkness there is in the world should be dispelled by this light.” In spite of the fact that Indian government has banned this documentary to be broadcast in India, Badri Singh tells NDTV that everyone must see ‘India’s Daughter’.

A few thoughts:
The tragedy is, no change has happened even after this Nirbhaya incident. Reports say that a girl / woman is raped every 20 minutes. Leslee Udwin has not shown that there is some easy answers or quick fix solutions to this. Justice Leila Seth puts it across so aptly that change is not impossible. Education is the answer, sure, and hope is something that we haven’t completely done away with. For there’s nothing that a person is not capable of – one just needs to strike the correct notes.

India’s Daughter has lot of moist eyes moments. Just an attempt to compile my thoughts after watching the documentary with a great lump in my throat.