- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
'Tu haan kar ya na kar' : Did Bollywood have a hand in making harassers proud and resilient?
It was 2'o clock in the afternoon, I was wearing a long kurta and jeans while walking to the Xerox centre, draped in a bag and minus the company of any man to earn me the label of a 'promiscuous girl who asked for it'. I was tending to my phone and jay-walking as usual, for a trip to Raj Xerox was hardly a new one. I had just entered the lane leading there, when I felt I was being followed. I was indeed being hounded by a young man on his bike. (he must've believed he taken akin to Lochinvar and his steady-steed I suppose with an unabashed smile on his face as he followed me around) Hardly a second later, the man on the bike edged his way to my side and started singing a song "taak te rehte tujhko saanjh saware" (Dabangg) Before he went on to lewdly "compliment" my breasts and my "uff ada" and "ghayal karne walle aankhen", he chose to assume that I was blushing as I looked away in anger. I didn't bother to acknowledge him and continued to walk away with an extra effort. Needless to say, he didn't give up on his chase. He followed me until I reached the xerox centre, where I rushed in amongst a few known faces. I took inordinately long to finish a single xerox, waiting for the freak to leave. As I started to leave, I turned around to see if he was anywhere in sight. Not being able to find him, I left. No sooner than that, I noticed a dab of ink on my wrist and went to the little toilet behind the xerox-centre. I washed my hand and began to leave when I heard someone humming "gori hai kalaiyan" in the milieu. I panicked when I turned to see it was the same man on the bike. I was scared and trembling to be nearly cornered by him and could not figure what to say or do. He seemed to find my fear funny as he said "maine socha agar yeh palat gayi toh yeh tujhse pyaar karti hai. Aur aap palat gayi" I was shocked out of my wits hearing that. Was he accusing me of love, based on some ridiculous line from a movie? I pushed him aside and ran straight ahead, crying, trying to create a scene to make my getaway easier. I saw an empty rick and jumped into it. As I left I could hear him chime "arey senorita, badi badi shehron mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain"
I furiously dialed my boyfriend's number and as I narrated to him what had happened, the rickshaw driver said "yeh roadside romeo hote hi aise madam " That's when it struck me harder. When did harassers get glorious titles of 'romeos'? When did a 'no' ever start meaning a 'yes'? When did stalkers get exulted to being amorous and relentless chasing become a tool to make a woman submit to your alleged love?
Its then when it dawned upon me, that the big silver screen had for many decades had made harassment a romantic endeavor.
In the very popular song 'chumma chumma' , the hero teases the heroine, pressing her for a kiss. She coyly says no at first, but she eventually gives in to his advances. The block buster 'tere naam' starring Salman Khan, sees him taking up the role of a village goon who abducts his 'object' of attention (played by Bhoomika Chawla) to demonstrate his masculinity. Terrified by his aggression at first, she eventually falls in love with her abductor; a pernicious message to send out, celebrating masculine violence as a virtue.
In the yester-years, the stringent censor-board norms, often resulted in one or more 'rape-scene' which was a bizarre sexual tool used to 'titillate' the audience.
A very famous tamil movie, Paruthiveeran, won plenty of accolades, including the prestigious National award. This is also a fact that disturbs me more as I go onto describe the climax of this movie. A gang rape victim is lying, dying, in her lover's arms. She is crying hoarse, pleading to be killed by her lover, assumedly to die an honourable death, rather than live on as a 'shamed' victim of violence. Her lover obliges and kills her. The villagers do not know this when they become enraged by her lover's act and stone him to death. So in a nut-shell, we have two victims dead, and the perpetrators of the crime walk free. But we all live honourably ever after...
The current onslaught of item-numbers is no less of a harassment, where the man is always portrayed as a suave suit-wearing gentleman and the lady as a tramp, eventually boiling down to the "she dressed that way so she wanted it" justification.
Strangely enough, Bollywood in its hundred years of existence, has seen very few women-centric movies and more so only now when people have finally begun to see that 'tu haan kar ya na kar' (Darr), is not love but just rape!
Bollywood has proven to be a catalyst for these harassers, in their warped portrayal of romance. It seems to convey a completely different sense of what is allowed and what isn't.
I am not saying all movie lovers will soon turn into lustful harassers, neither am I asking for the movie industry to be shunned. I'm just asking for an introspection and possible corrections to hard-wired notions of romance, shame and masculine entitlements.