By Kavita Krishnan
I like others will wait to watch the film before commenting on it. But since a very high voltage campaign has taken shape around it, and it’s shaping our response to rape and rape culture, I would like to put on record my experience of meeting the filmmaker.
Since December 2012, there have been any number of journalists, researchers, and filmmakers who have wanted to meet and speak to me about the Delhi anti-rape movement. In October 2013, when I was approached by someone saying a British filmmaker wanted an interview. I was asked to come to India Gate where she would film the interview. I arrived early, and met Leslee Udwin there for the first time.
On meeting me, she asked ‘Have you participated in the protests?’ I did a bit of a double take: if she didn’t know I had participated in the protests, why was she interviewing me? Since she planned to interview me, should she not have done some basic homework – about my work, my views, my intervention in the movement? If these didn’t matter to her film, what was the perspective of the film? I frankly said some of this to her, suggesting that she should do some more homework on the protests, and on the women’s movement in India. Speaking to her, I realised that she wasn’t familiar with other movements on gender in India, or with the history of the women’s movement in India.
After the actual interview took place (as a discussion with Shivam Vij and I), I continued to feel some unease and dissatisfaction. I mailed the filmmaker later to fill her in on details of the movement. I felt – and continued to feel – unease about how the film would present my views, and how these would fit in in the overall perspective of the film. She responded warmly thanking me for the material, and also sent a warm mail thanking me for the interview, a couple of months later.
I do not question her integrity or intention, as a person. But I am concerned at the sheer confidence with which a single film, made by someone with scant familiarity with the daily decisions, dilemmas and struggles of India’s activists, can claim to set the agenda for change in India. As such, I fear that a global campaign, with the disproportionate funds and power at its disposal, can possibly do great damage. Already, the film has sent a message that due legal process can be given short shrift and junked, for the noble agenda of exposing a ‘rapist’s mind’ to the world.
The filmmaker can keep saying that her point is that it isn’t a few apples that are rotten, it’s the barrel that’s rotten. The problem, of course is, what exactly is the barrel in your definition? Are you concerned at all that if the whole barrel is rotten, it might be a tad unbalanced to put a harsh spotlight on a couple of rotten apples alone? What does the filmmaker plan to do about the consequences of her interview – the fact that it’s giving grist to the mill of those who are saying that the legal process has taken ‘too long’ and such beasts should have been hanged long ago? Would she have been able to take and air such an interview of a rape convict in the UK, when the appeals process was still underway?
I have already written about my misgivings regarding the India’s Daughter campaign; this is a post script.
Kavita Krishnan is Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA).