The power of a film yet to be released!

The airing of Leslee Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter has been halted in the country. The film deals particularly with the rape of a young paramedic, better known as Nirbhaya, on December 16,2012 in a bus by six men. A part of the footage collected focuses on Mukesh Singh, one of the culprits, who is being questioned and scrutinised to know his mind and thoughts on the horrific crime he committed. 

His words, remorseless to say the least, have understandably scandalised the public. The short footage and uproar in the public and social media has prompted the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to put a halt on the release of the film, for now.

Speaking to Metrolife, Ishani K Dutta an independent filmmaker and founder of Carrot Films says, “When I went to Tihar Jail in 2013, for the same purpose (to interview Nirbhaya case convicts), I was denied entry. The authorities told me that a British woman from BBC had just left after taking the interview of the convicts and no one else will be allowed. They showed me the letter that she had gotten signed. Getting clearances for documentary filmmakers in India has never been easy.”

“This was two years ago, and now the film is made. I don’t see why it should be banned now? As a filmmaker I don’t think that a film highlighting the rapist will have a negative impact. It does not disrespect Nirbhaya. Nirbhaya is disrespected whenever a rape happens in this country, and that is every day. As a nation we are democratic, not like China or Korea where we hide our histories. Social media and internet is so powerful now, putting a ban is not the solution to the problem.”

Kamini Jaiswal, senior Supreme Court lawyer, states, “It is lapse of the judicial system, if such a clearance, when the case is still pending, could be granted. On what basis was she allowed, when a son (referring to Afzal Guru) is not allowed to meet his mother or wife in Tihar Jail just before his death sentence? The media should also question how this woman was allowed to conduct the interview,” fumes Jaiswal. 

“The film should not be aired. The words the man spoke are demeaning to any woman. Who is he? Why is his view so important to resolve the problem of gender inequality,” asks Jaiswal.

Maya Krishna Rao, professor of theatre in Shiv Nadar University and also the one who did a solo act on Nirbhaya, where she questioned the many evils that prevail in our society today told Metrolife: “When we are already mobilsing the crowd and taking them to the root of the problem and raising other discourses, this film has taken all the spotlight. The discourse on capital punishment will again be pursued. After such declarations, a girl will never report if she is raped by her family member,” says Rao.

The film is also a medium to disseminate information in a fictional or non-fictional manner. Maybe that is the reason why Nirbhaya’s mother was ready to be a subject in Udwin’s film. 

But Nirbhaya’s mother is far from taking a moral ground on the controversy.  Speaking to Metrolife Asha Devi said, “I am not against the government to ban the film. I just want to get justice for my daughter. Banning the film or releasing the film is not my lookout.”

A student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Rijul Kataria feels, “The documentary should be aired. I don’t see any point in stopping the public opinion to come out. I think a better discourse is possible. A discourse on freedom of expression. I don’t think any authority should decide for the public. Let the public decide whether the film is scandalous or not.”

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