It’s truly a good gesture at the end of a director to make a film on the acid attacks, the social challenges faced by the acid survivors in this society and the changes in the constitutional framework. When my country is witnessing the worst possible time in the incidents of violence on women in the most brutal ways, a film like Chhapaak brings some ray of consciousness, at least an impact on the audience. In such dark times, such productions like Chhapaak are welcome to at least surface the issue in the society to thrash the inhumane attitude of the society towards the acid survivors.
But where the expectation of a viewer from a director like Meghna Gulzar gets hurt? Yes, a mainstream Bollywood production like Chhapaak may not be expected to properly dig out the social reasons behind gender violence and address it. But no word on the reasons?
Let us start from the end. The production itself left us to expect it from the director when in the last scene the acid attack continues after all changes in the quantum of punishment of the crime, on regulations in the sale of acid. The director leaves the question for the audience mentioning the last attack even in 2019 when all the legal regulations on the sale of acid and Section 326A & B of IPC on the quantum of punishment are enforced.
Even if it’s a biopic of Laxmi Agarwal and her fight, why Chhapaak is silent on the root causes for such attacks? Why don’t we see the reasons for all such attacks in the sheer patriarchal power structure of the society, where the perpetrator ‘man’ goes to any extent as he can’t accept a “NO” from a woman.
In Chhapaak, Malti was attacked by Basir after rebuffing the romantic advances of the latter. When Malti used to dream of appearing in Indian Idol, Basir suddenly calls up and threatens “Tu bari hona chahti hain na?” The voice of the power saying ‘I will gag your agencies if you want to surpass my power and grow yourself’ reverberates. When the perpetrator attacks Malti and her boyfriend since ‘HE’ in Basir doesn’t want it and ‘HE’ wants Malti, the same voice is echoed, the voice of an ultra-male power trying to clutch agency of Malti. Patriarchy doesn’t live in men only, it’s social depravity that is dominant in women as well when we see Basir’s sister joining the attack.
When Amol (the NGO activist) says “Malti I want to visit the High Court with you since I want to see the perpetrator why he did this…’’ then, we must say Meghna, we all know it’s not the individual ‘HE’ who attacks. It’s the structural power construct in the ‘HE’ who bouts. Are we to only shrug off by punishing the criminals and not find the crime?
Meghna, won’t we raise these questions which are the main reasons behind brutal rapes, murders, acid attacks, and everyday violence and harassment of women in public places, fields, private sectors, factories, and homes? The deployment of structural violence is an act not to be seen by mainstream directors.
I’m sure Laxmi in her brilliant fight to stop an acid attack and every fellow citizen who has been in the street against all such violence have ever told and wanted to eradicate the reasons so that the attack doesn’t happen not only the amendment of quantum of punishment after the attack already took place. Ban or regulation on acid sale is a big preventive measure, but it’s really late, so we need to question the root cause and hammer it in all creative and naked ways so that we can dream of a better society thus materializing it. Let’s come out of the patriarchal vices living inside all of us, let us try out to introspect and kill the reasons which are demonising our country every day, as shown by a film like Chhapaak.