Watching men prey on women in Dibakar Banerjee’s gritty, heaving, before-during-after story of an MMS set in today’s India gave me the shivers. The creepy overeager guard, the pop singer who lives by the maxim of his hit single Tu nangi achchi lagti hai, the girl who matter-of-factly trades sex for 30ml of fame, the patriarch and the widowed mother who erase their daughters the moment they find out the girls have broken their parents’ rules—they all reflect the horror of the female struggle to survive in today’s India.
You want to weep when you see the gullible, insecure, chocolate-skinned store attendant fall into the trap set by two colleagues who want to make a quick buck. So what if she’s dark, one man says to another. Naked, they all look the same. The brutal dialogues and the stunning soundtrack (some sounds even originated from actual MMSes) only underline the fact that in India women are, often, easily disposed trash.
The gloom is only intensified because you know Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha isn’t your typical Bollywood exaggeration. The male gaze gets more aggressive every day. Introduce technology and the combination is dynamite, especially in an India which juggles multiple worlds.
In the film, Banerjee zeroes in on our urge to be caught on camera and to be (in)famous. “Something has happened to contemporary India—we are all hungry to be in front of the camera and hungry to be famous. We want to be on TV, we want to be an idol or whatever, win a reality contest and become the nation’s heart-throb. So whenever we see a camera, our behaviour changes,” he said in an interview to Screen magazine.
The sex show: Private lives on display
I grew up in Bombay and my girlfriends who lived in Delhi were always amazed that I never learned how to drive. For a Delhi girl, a car is just another safety barrier against the testosterone-dipped city that lurks beyond rolled-up windows. Those of us who can afford it, erect many more such physical barriers almost without thinking. Those of us who are smart, know to be alert always. And because we’re alert, we notice the eyes on us everywhere.
We also know that, just as it is in the animal kingdom, the weaker ones will go down first. Like the 12-year-old class VIII Mumbai student who was repeatedly raped for two years by nine men. One of them was a cousin she lived with, another a 71-year-old man. On some occasions, the men filmed the rape on their cellphones. Along with the urge to prey, there’s now the desire to record the kill and show it off.
In a recent article titled Gendercide, The Economist points out that though most people know that the ratio of women to men is getting worse in countries such as India and China due to female infanticide, they don’t realize the extent or implications of the problem. China now has as many unmarried men as all the young men in America, the article says, adding: “In Asian societies, where marriage and children are the recognized routes into society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generation reaches their maturity.”
In the years ahead, things are only going to get rougher for Indian women as more of them try to find the right balance between their traditional and modern lives. And don’t get me started on the biggest predators of all: Our filthy rich politicians and our assorted horny godmen.
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