With Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, about real-life acid-attack victim Laxmi Aggarwal, around the corner it’s time to look at some other hard-hitting films on the subject of violence against women.
1. Heaven On Earth(2008): Deepa Mehta’s hardhitting—and I mean really HARD hitting so hard the wacks of the brutal husband still ring in my ears—film on domestic violence featured Preity Zinta as a bride from rural Punjab who marries into an Indian family Canada , only to face the most horrific physical and emotional abuse in the hands of her husband(Vansh Bhardwaj). Preity took some hard blows on her face to play this abused woman who finally says no to the violence. Mehta’s film floundered in the second-half when the human snake was replaced by a real cobra. Nonetheless a powerful film on a tough subject.
2. Lakshmi(2014): You really need nerves of steel and a strong stomach to sit through this savage and brutal story of a 14 year old girl(played convincingly by a far older singer Monali Thakur) who is kidnapped raped and sold into the flesh market .Wait, that’s just the beginning of Lakshmi’s torture.The real trauma begins in the brothel when she’s pitched against a sadistic pimp Chinna(played with vile realism by the film’s director Nagesh Kukunoor). The film is like a never-ending nightmare where the young vulnerable protagonist goes through endless brutality. You wait for Lakshmi’s suffering to end. It never does.Then there was the wonderful Shefali Shah as a kind-hearted Madame in the brothel. You have to see what Kukunoor’s pimp does to punish her when she tries to help Lakshmi.No I can’t describe it.
3. Zakhmi Aurat(1988): An exceedingly controversial film during its time, it featured Dimple Kapadia as a cop who is gangraped .As revenge , she and other likeminded rape victims go around castrating rapists. Ridiculous as the film was, its relevance of its eye-for-an-eye philosophy to this day is disturbing. The film was a hit, though Dimple who was herself a victim of domestic violence in real life, was quite embarrassed about it.
4. Delhi Crime(2018): Absolutely the best I’ve seen on crime against women in recent times. This 7-part web-series recreating in vivid vicious colours the events before during and after the life-changing ‘Nirbhaya’ gangrape in Delhi, spares us the brutality of watching the rape but protects us from none of the trauma and horrific aftermath of a crime that shook the conscience of the nation. I will never forget the sequence where the ravaged girl is rolled into the hospital bloodied brutalized beyond all human explanation, in pain beyond all endurance she tells her father, “I will be fine.”. We do that all the time. We keep saying things will be fine when we know they will only get worse.Director Richie Mehta negotiates with powerful hands the many hurdles that a crime investigation so complex must face. This is a very professionally handled crime drama, superior to some of the real-life crime dramas on television ( some of which are not bad at all) mainly for the level of performance director Mehta gets out of the cast specially Shefali Shah.
5. Grahan(2001): The most underrated , under-seen film on the plight of a rape victim Grahan tracks with excruciating starkness the efforts of a rape victim to get justice from a legal system that favours her powerful rapist’s political family. As the ethereal Manisha Koirala, playing the rape survivor descends into a hell of trauma and insanity there is just a glimmer of hope. But not enough to make us feel that India is safe for women. Go back to Grahan for a slice of life that will slice your peaceful life.