Thappad: The Slap Is On Us

Contradictions constantly rush at one another in India where the most progressive and the most regressive trends co-exist at any given time. The context here is society and cinema.

It was Deepika Padukone and her film Chhapaak two months back. Now it is the turn of another landmark film, Thappad. The former was trolled and boycotted by those angry at Deepika’s expressing solidarity with agitating students and teachers at the turbulent Jawaharlal Nehru University. The latter faces similar wrath since its director Anubhav Sinha and many of the actors led by Taapsee Pannu were part of similar protests at Mumbai’s Gateway of India.

While Chhapaak reportedly suffered at the Box Office and bowed out of most cinema halls, Thappad is seemingly surmounting the boycott from quarters preoccupied with violence in Delhi and its aftermath. Taapsee has dismissed prospects of any damage to her film coming from “a few thousand trolls.”

ALSO READ: Deepika Chooses Conscience Over Caution

The basic argument of both the actors is that it is stupid to condemn and punish a film because those behind it have publicly expressed their views on issues that is controversial. But we are living in highly polarized times.

Coincidentally, but significantly, both films challenge set social norms and prejudices that presumably cause discomfort to the trolls, their allies across the social media and more importantly, their political mentors. Chhapaak, already written in detail in this space earlier, is about brutal acid attack on women who reject unwanted male advances. Thappad is about domestic violence and the impact on an individual’s sense of self-respect, especially when it comes from loved ones and life-partners.

Domestic violence afflicts all societies, but more so those where patriarchy rules, where men dominate, irrespective of their ability to earn and carry out other responsibilities as family persons, family heads in most cases. Inbuilt male supremacy boosts male ego.

ALSO READ: ‘We Rooted Out Domestic Violence’

One can argue endlessly whether it is prevalent more in traditional societies or those that follow Western norms, or whether it is in the joint family or a nuclear one. But the universality of it is not in doubt.

Conventional wisdom is that education (for all) and economic independence in the case of the woman help better relationship. But there is no rule of the thumb with changing societal values and perceptions and complexities of growing urbanization and the rate race to make it big in material terms. In India, dowry deaths and in-laws’ harassment may or may not have diminished, but a working woman’s autonomy to spend from her earnings does lead to domestic violence.

India’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 begins and ends with the issue of violence. But it does not, and cannot, touch upon long-set social norms where a woman once married is expected to leave her parental home and not expect any relief or help if she is in trouble. They could include dowry demand, ill-treatment by in-laws who often side with the son against the daughter-in-law. Not just the mother-in-law, but the sister-in-law could also play a negative role. A daughter-in-law, but not daughter, is advised to accept a flawed relationship, occasional violence, even the son’s cheating. These are the realities.

ALSO READ: ‘I Wash Thrashed For Dowry, Given Talaq’

Traditional social norms in India have ensured that women by and large live with injustice and violence for fear of losing ‘izzat’ or else, being socially ostracized. A million women complained of domestic violence between the year 2005, when the law was enacted and 2016. Yet, the rate of reporting such incidents to the police are still considered small compared to the Western societies. Though illegal since 1961, dowry demand, at times camouflaged, remains ingrained in Indian society. Data reveals that 72 women die every day.

The law works, but only to the extent the society evolves and the State helps. For instance, “honour killing” is the norm, if not so much in India then certainly to its West where in some societies, women complaining of rape are punished.

This is all in the public domain, while domestic violence mainly occurs within the four walls of the home.  In Thappad, it is a mix of the two. One tight slap falls on the cheek of a loving, caring wife from an equally loving, caring husband. It is delivered at home but in the midst of a party, before several guests.

A still from the movie Thappad

It triggers a mini revolution. After failing to reconcile, the wife is determined to preserve her self-respect, even if it means a divorce. Just everyone, particularly women, including her woman-lawyer, dissuade her. Your place is there, not with us, parents tell her. All this is when each of them has story of aspirations suppressed at the altar of family life.

Reconcile and move on, the in-laws advise. All relationships are flawed, the lawyer counsels. Much ado over “just one slap?” she is told. “Not even one slap,” she responds. It is a wake-up call, not one to revolt. It’s a thin line, though.

The most effective parts of the film are the ones in which we are shown just how women are always being told how to feel, how to keep their feelings in check, how not to give into them.

Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta sums up: “Thappad bears its message, more essential than ever, on its chin: Women are not property. Wives are not owned. Dreams have no gender, and everyone is allowed to realise them. And how all it takes, from a woman who just wants self-respect, is a decision to say no, Not Even One Slap.”

Sadly, films speaking out against dowry are passé these days. But like domestic violence, there is another ‘No’, as more and more women join India’s work force. Pannu was the lead actor in another remarkable film, Pink (2016), about consent in sexual relationship. Amitabh Bachchan played the lawyer whose baritone “No means no. Only no”, drew the Lakshman Rekha.

All three films cited here are well-written, diligently performed, are not preachy, yet convey their respective messages forcefully.

This is where, and how, cinema comes, as it should. Undoubtedly, it has its limitations. The society cannot duck its responsibility. Not even when political leaders attribute increase in cases of rape and divorce to women going to work. The society has itself to set acceptable norms armed with legal sanctions and follow it diligently.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

BJP's 'beheader' Ammu quits over Padmavati

Padmavati director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and lead actor Deepika Padukone. Then he spoke of ‘breaking the legs’ of another Padmavati actor, Ranvir Singh. The he turned his sights on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for saying the film was welcome in her state, saying she would lose her nose like Surpankha in the Ramayana. On Wednesday, he quit the party. Haryana BJP leader Surajpal Singh Ammu has resigned as the party’s Chief Media Coordinator in the state, sending his resignation to Bharatiya Janata Party state chief Subhash Barala through a WhatsApp message.

In his resignation, Ammu said he was upset with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s “attitude towards the Rajput community”. The chief minister, according to him, was surrounded by “a few unwanted people and keeping himself away from loyalist party workers”. Ammu said he would pray to God so that “good sense” prevails on Khattar and requested that he be relieved of the party post’s responsibility. A delegation of Rajput leaders led by Ammu on Tuesday visited Haryana Bhawan in Delhi to meet Khattar and request him to fulfil their demand of announcing a ban on Padmavati in the state but the Chief Minister refused to meet them. Rajput leaders said they felt insulted by Khattar.

And Mulayam’s daughter-in-law does the Padmavati dance

Even as the controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is yet to die down, a dance by Aparna Yadav, a daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, on the movie’s song has created a political furore. Aparna Yadav danced to the ‘Ghoomar’ song of the yet-to-be-released movie while celebrating her younger brother Aman Bisht’s engagement ceremony at a five-star hotel in Lucknow on Saturday, raising the hackles of elements opposed to the film.  In a video clipping which has since gone viral on the social media, Aparna Yadav is seen leading a group of women dancers on stage at the family function. The song has been picturised on Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone in the film.  “It is sad that a prominent political family’s member has chosen to behave in such a fashion. It is as if she is trying to tease us and rub salt in our wounds,” a leader of Karni Sena, which is bitterly opposing the movie’s release without changes, said. The Karni Sena is particularly miffed at this particular song which, it contends, shows Rajput women dancing in public, which is not a depiction of the reality of the past. Aparna Yadav, who is married to Mulayam Singh’s younger son Prateek, has spoken her mind openly on many political issues and ruffled feathers in the past.
On November 21, Ammu was booked for issuing threats to Bhansali and Deepika over their movie. But he stood by his announcement of Rs 10-crore reward for “beheading” them. Ammu said he gave the statements as a “Rajput” and not as a BJP leader.
Read at Lokmarg
Padmavati row : Deafening silence of top political leadership and Bollywood

Ammu also threated to break the legs of actor Ranveer Singh, who plays the role of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji in the movie. The movie centres around the valour of Rajput queen Padmavati. Asked if he had received any notice from the BJP for his statement, Ammu told IANS: “No notice has been received. I’ll answer if I get one. I am ready to do anything for the welfare for my community.” Police officer Sunil Kumar said the accused would be served a notice soon to join the police probe.   (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)  (with IANS) // ]]>

Padmavati threats not acceptable: V-P Naidu

Amid a raging row over “Padmavati”, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said that nobody has the right to take law into their hands, but at the same time nobody has the right to hurt others sentiments. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Times Litfest, Naidu emphasised that inciting violence or unlawful activities as a way of protest such as announcing bounty on some people’s heads was “unacceptable”. “Now this new problem has come related to some film. Some people feel that it is hurting the sentiments of this community or that community and then they protest. Some of them go out of the way and announce rewards. This is not acceptable,” he said, without naming anyone. “You have a right to protest in a democratic manner. Go to appropriate authorities and complain to them. Take the recourse in a democratic way but you cannot physically obstruct. And you cannot give violent threats,” he said. “You don’t have a right to take law into your hands. At the same time you don’t have the right to hurt the sentiments of others. That is a reality,” he said, adding that some people are quite “selective” in their criticism. He said respecting others’ sentiments and feelings is the “essence of our culture”. A controversy has been raging over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama “Padmavati” with several organisations, mainly from the Rajput community, opposing release of the movie on the grounds it “distorts history”. Fringe elements have also announced rewards on the heads of actress Deepika Padukone and film director Bhansali. The Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor starrer was scheduled to be released on December 1, but it has now been deferred. Referring to an article in a newspaper, Naidu said in the past too films have faced bans and obstructions and mentioned “Aandhi” and “Garam Hava” as some examples. “Aandhi” (1975) whose protagonist had striking similarities with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was banned after 26 weeks of release. “Garam Hava” was held up by the censor board for eight months.” Speaking on Parliamentary democracy, Naidu said that it was not important as to how many days Parliament meets, the important thing was for how many days “it functions”. Naidu said people have a right to disagree but first they “must learn to respect the majority and the people’s mandate”. Naidu also said that while dissent was agreeable, “disintegration is not acceptable”. “That is the bottom line and any attempt to undermine integrity and unity of India by forces inimical to growth of India must be nipped in the bud,” he said in reference to last year’ Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy.

(IANS) // ]]>

Padmavati cleared for UK, Karni Sena says fight on

Padmavati protest may go global soon with Rajput Karni Sena president Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi declaring their fight to ban the film will continue in Britain. Speaking to Republic TV, Gogamedi said,”Our Rajput brothers, our Hindu brothers in England (sic) will be asked to continue the protest there.” Gogamedi told the TV channel that his passport stands impounded because of his role in civil unrest related to a reservation protest led by the Sena or he would have gone himself. Saying the Sena would approach the World Court as well the authorities in Britain, he repeated the Sena’s earlier threat: “Any theatre that screens the film will be burnt down.”

Earlier on Thursday, as the British censors cleared the controversial film Padmavati for release on December 1, and India’s apex court said it will hear on November 28 a fresh plea seeking to block the release of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie outside India.

A source close to the film’s makers said Padmavati won’t release anywhere on December 1 — its original release date which was deferred after the Indian censor board returned their application on grounds that it was incomplete. “We are not releasing the film anywhere on December 1,” the source told IANS. A petitioner told the Supreme Court in New Delhi that “grave damage would be done to social harmony if the movie was allowed to be released abroad”. According to the official website of the British Board Of Film Classification (BBFC), Padmavati will be released “uncut” in the UK. But its release will now have to wait. The makers are yet to secure a censor certificate in India, where Chief Ministers of at least four states have taken a stand against the release of the historical drama. Starring Deepika Padukone with Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in key roles, the magnum opus tells the tale of Rani Padmavati, the legendary Mewar queen known for her beauty and intelligence as well as courage, her husband Maharawal Ratan Singh, a Rajput warrior king who fought to defend his kingdom and wife’s honour, and Sultan Alauddin Khilji. The movie, Bhansali says, is a tribute to the valour of legendary queen Padmavati. It is mired in controversy in India as Hindu groups backed by the BJP are up in arms against alleged “distortion of historical facts”. Bhansali has repeatedly rebuffed the charges but has been receiving brickbats. A Haryana BJP leader had even offered a reward of Rs 10 crore to anyone who would “behead” Bhansali and the film’s lead actress. Such reactions have disturbed members of the film fraternity. Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan” and Pihu helmer Vinod Kapri expressed concern, while veteran actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the controversy. Shatrughan Sinha, a BJP MP, said: “I’d like to say it’s too late for our dynamic Prime Minister and the other high command to stay silent. Padmavati is a raging issue. And the fringe elements are openly issuing threats. How can the high command keep quiet when goons are threatening to behead Bhansali and Deepika Padukone? “It’s time for our honourable Prime Minister to say ‘enough is enough’. If you give the goons a free reign, they will continue to cross limits in ways we wouldn’t be able to control,” he said.

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  (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)
(IANS)
// ]]>

Karnataka CM wants Deepika to be protected

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has urged the Haryana government to act against fringe elements threatening to bodily harm Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone for her lead role in Hindi film “Padmavati”. “I have asked Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to take strict action against those threatening to harm Deepika, as she just played the lead role in the film as an actress as directed by its maker,” Siddaramaiah told reporters here on Monday. Though 31-year-old Deepika stays in Mumbai, she hails from Bengaluru, where her family, including her father and legendary badminton champion Prakash Padukone, mother Ujjala, younger sister Anisha and grandmother Ahilya live in the city’s southwest suburb. Padukone runs a badminton academy in the city’s western suburb to coach youngsters in the game. “I call upon the CM of Haryana @mlkhattar to take strict action against those holding out threats against her,” tweeted Siddaramaiah later. Reacting to a threat by media cell coordinator of Haryana unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Suraj Pal Ammu, who allegedly offered to reward Rs 10 crore to anyone who would “behead” Deepika, the Chief Minister said the state government would provide security to her and her family in Bengaluru. “I condemn the culture of intolerance and hate perpetuated by the BJP and its right-wing groups. Karnataka stands by Deepika who is a renowned artiste from our state,” asserted Siddaramaiah. The yet-to-be certified historical film is said to have distorted the character role of the 13th century Rajput queen Padmini or Padmavati of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan. Taking cue from the Chief Minister, state Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy told reporters at Belagavi in the state’s northwest region that the state police would provide security to Deepika whenever she was in Bengaluru or anywhere in Karnataka. “I have directed the state DGP (Director General of Police) to ensure her (Deepika) safety and provide security to her family in Bengaluru,” reiterated Reddy. State Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar also condemned the BJP leader and the fringe groups, which allegedly threatened to “burn Deepika alive”. “Deepika belongs to our state and is the daughter of the country’s most respected sportsman,” said Shivakumar in a tweet from Belagavi, about 500km from here.

(IANS) // ]]>