Safecity is reviewing films that are stepping out to highlight the innate gender roles, discrimination, stereotypes, sexual harassment, misogyny and sexism which have been an ingrained part of cinema for a long time through our blog series “Feminism in Reel Life”authored by Ishmeet Nagpal.
A dentist turned social activist, Dr. Ishmeet Nagpal has been working for women’s health and gender rights for 4 years in different parts of India. Currently in Mumbai, she works with students and journalists, on issues of gender identity and gender perceptions, as well as sexual harassment at the workplace.
Directed by “Pyar ka punchnama”- fame, Luv Ranjan and released in 2013, Akaash Vani was probably dismissed as just another love story featuring Nushrat Bharucha and Kartik Aaryan, best known for their roles in Pyar ka Punchnama, and its sequel.
It garnered mixed reviews from critics, some appreciating its social message, and some berating its script as inconsistent. But this reviewer found that underneath the garb of a fluffy love story, the movie brought forward a topic which many would consider too sensitive even today: MARITAL RAPE.
The story begins as a sweet college love drama, and then moves on to typical complications like the girl choosing her parents and ‘honor’ above her lover. She leaves her sweet boyfriend and marries the seemingly ideal boy of her parents’ choice, but is seen battling the concept of intimacy with this near stranger. In one of the most painful scenes I have ever witnessed on screen, her husband forces himself upon her, in a way that may even be considered non-violent by some, but the violence committed on her mind screams into our heads. We realize that no matter how much we sloganeer “No means no”, some women might not even be able to articulate this ‘No’, especially if there are other psychological pressures involved.
How often do we hear problematic statements like, “If it’s your husband, how can it be rape?” or “If she didn’t fight back, how can it be rape?” or “In Indian culture, this is not recognized as rape”? While recent movies like “Pink” have touched on the topic, it was a revelation to see the issue tackled so sensitively in a movie from four years ago.
It explores the convoluted meaning of perceived consent when the aggressor is none other than the husband. Resistance may not always be a physical fighting back by the woman, and silence would not always mean consent.
What follows is a meandering narrative of how she tries to deal with the situation- returning home repeatedly to her parents and always sent back by them after ‘reconciliation’ attempts; trying to stand up to her husband; trying to distract herself by meeting friends; etc.
The disappointing attitude of the parents who want to save face by ‘saving’ her abusive marriage, resonates painfully with real life in India. Some parents play a major role in pressurizing their children to enter into, and then stay, in a bad marriage. A daughter faces double jeopardy, when despite loving her parents for years, she is awakened to the rude truth, that only she can stand up for herself.
Watch this movie for the second half where the woman, with no need of a knight in shining armour, takes a stand against her husband and her own parents, to break out of the societal norms that had long smothered her.
I give the movie 4 feminist stars. Happy viewing.