Sunday, 10 April 2011

Why isn't anyone offended?

Recently I saw the (then-spanking-new) movie 3 Idiots which is now the talk of the country for it's extolling of the innovative attitude, fresh approach to education and other positives. Plus, of course, the negative controversy about it's authorship. But ignoring these (which, I know, is difficult at this time), I ask you to look at a different issue altogether, which has been and probably will be (even after reading this post) dismissed as a non-issue.

I am referring to the 'balatkar' speech in 3 Idiots, and I am offended by it. Not because I have a holier-than-thou/god-fearing/moral-brigade-ish/old-fashioned attitude (which a majority of you may have already labelled onto me). I am quite the contrary, and the reason for my being offended is a different one.

I am all for liberal society and individual identity and all. I do not mind the skimpy clothes, the suggestive songs and lyrics, etc. I am totally at ease with them (actually, that's an understatement!) and I actually have debates with some of my relatives who are opposed to the liberal culture being depicted on movie and television screens nowadays.

So why all this offence at the use of the word 'balatkar'? Here's my explanation: I feel that two different issues are being confused with each other. On the one hand is the issue of liberal values (which covers overt sexuality, live-ins, one-night stands, kissing in public, homosexual relationships, etc). On the other hand is the issue of non-consensual sexual intercourse (rape). And this second issue is where, I feel, most of us Indians (even the educated ones) are crossing the line when we treat/depict it frivolously (eg. in supposedly "comedy" scenes in movies).

What I want to say is: Jokes/comedy/innuendos about sex, one-night stands, homosexuality and similar (consensual) issues may be ok to get accustomed to the liberal point-of-view, or just for plain fun. But there is a line which is crossed when rape is involved.

Now, I know the liberals will shout things like: "Who decides/draws the line?" The answer to this is quite simple. In sexual matters, the line is drawn by the consensual or non-consensual nature of the intercourse. This line a very important line for any liberal society, because the pro-individual nature of a liberal society is based on safeguarding every individual's rights, and one of those rights is the rape-victim's: to consent (or not) to sexual intercourse. And it should be accorded the same seriousness and respect which we accord to other individual rights and preferences (eg. to choose one's profession - as shown in the same movie!)

But, in many of our films we see this matter being treated frivolously, jokes being cracked, and comic speeches/situations (involving rape) being made in the name of liberal values, fun and "time-pass". I'm sorry, but even the use of the word balatkar/rape in a comic context is in bad taste, and is certainly not a case for liberal values. Do you recall seeing any such scene (of rape being used as a comic element, or even uttered in a joking manner) in cinema of the west (from whom we have imbibed the liberal culture)?

Indirectly, such depiction in our movies feeds the misplaced-pseudo-liberal attitude towards non-consensual sex and, I feel, is also at the root of other issues we are seeing in the news today. In a matter of rape, the Goa MP commented that the Russian victim deserved it (implying skimpy clothes and alcohol consumption makes it ok to be raped). Again, isn't it the erroneous attitude (of even some of the educated among us) of ignoring the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex?

The point, Mr. Minister and fellow Indians, is: I have not heard of anyone getting raped on nudist beaches of the west. But I have read many and frequent accounts of fully clothed girls being abducted from streets, and raped in cars, in our country. And I feel that our indifferent attitude to rape/non-consensual sex is at the core of the brazenness of these crimes.

And, this attitude is reflected in (and feeds upon) the popularity of movies which, while seemingly having their heart in the right place(!), use rape (sometimes the word, and at times even the act) as a context for comedy.

My question to you: Why isn't anyone offended?
Contribution by:  @nparab ( Nilesh Parab ) 

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