Monday, March 9, 2015

India's Daughter - Not worth the ban

BBC 4 was to telecast the now mired in controversy documentary `India’s Daughter’. We decided to watch it.

A few points to keep in mind when reading this:

1.     The crime was reprehensible, disgusting and the work of perverts, depraved animals.

2.     Despite (1) above, the accused [now convicted] have the right to have legal representation.

3.     I realise how great a brand name the BBC really is. All those on the show from the defence lawyers, to Mukesh the protagonist in the documentary, to Nirbhayas parents to Gopal Subramanian the Verma Panel lawyer, were busy grandstanding and making outrageous statements. Give a man a soap box and he will start spouting. Give a man a BBC documentary he will go to town.

4.     Only Justice Leila Seth had some sense of dignity and proportion when speaking.

Now having watched the documentary my opinion is:

1   There was absolutely no need to ban the film. Leave aside the argument that the film can be watched online etc., the fact of the matter is that the film was very silly, badly made and the so called outrageous statements were greatly magnified by our `Middia’. The effect of the ban is almost exactly the same as the effect that the strenuous denials by the UPA Government had on the utterly silly book by Sanjaya Baru on Dr Manmohan Singh. The book contained a statement in the very end that Sonia Gandhi used to ask for files from Dr Manmohan Singh and review them. This was widely believed, by people in the know, to be the truth. It should have been ignored. Instead, the whole issue is blown way out of proportion and what is a bad documentary and a bad book achieved great fame, notoriety and possibly money for the maker/author.

2. Our `Middia’ is shockingly powerful in influencing decisions. This ban is, I believe, a knee jerk reaction by the Government to the hysterical `Middia’. Alas, we have to live by the sword and die by the sword. For every good thing the `Middia’ does we have to endure 5 bad things. The exposure of Rahul Gandhi as basically a fool was a good thing done by the `Middia’. It is possibly the greatest thing done by the `Middia’ in my view in the last 5 years.

The documentary was poorly made replete with every cliché in the book. Clichés from the commentary, the structure of the film itself and the absolute unrealistic way in which Jyoti’s (yes folks, she has a name) parents spoke. Yes, she was the victim of an absolutely horrible crime, but please don’t deify her. Surely that is an injustice to her as well. By the time you are half way through the documentary you are on your way to believing that Jyoti was the most perfect person who ever walked this earth. As a child she was brilliant, she asked questions, she said she wanted to be educated, money for her marriage should be spent on education, she worked in a BPO and slept only 3 hours so that she could earn her Hostel fees, she was to get a job and relieve her parents from the strain and so on and so forth till nausea is induced. Please do read this statement by Nirbhaya’s father:

“Jyoti has become a symbol. In death, she has lit such a torch that not only this country, but the whole world, got lit up. But at the same time, she posed a question. What is the meaning of ‘a woman’? How is she looked upon by society today? And I wish that whatever darkness there is in this world should be dispelled by this light.”

See what I mean?

Once you were done watching this saccharine, the film cuts to Mukesh. Now Mukesh is a cool cat. He has been sentenced to death. He has committed a crime that is an open and shut case. What life does he really have? So what does he have to lose? In this background, put him in front of a camera and ask him to spout. What did you really expect? Milk and honey, remorse? Did you expect to see a reformed human? If I was in his place I would have done exactly the same. My 5 minutes in the sun.

Cut to the defence lawyers. Their position is similar to that of Mukesh. They had to defend the indefensible. What do they have to lose? In front of a camera they too spout.

Into this mix is thrown on Dr Maria Misra a scholar. She has a PHD and is a lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Keble College, specialising in the politics, culture, and economics of nineteenth- and twentieth-century imperialism and colonialism. She came on as an `India Expert’. However, what she says has nothing to do with her area of expertise. This is one of her over the top statements:

“Her death has made a huge difference. I think that, first of all, it has really brought home the issue of the problems of the way young and independent women are perceived in Indian society. It's opened up a debate in India that I think hasn't been held publicly and widely about exactly what the relationship between men and women should be.”

Now do you understand the power of the soap box and the BBC?

The most hilarious was Gopal Subramanian. He is a reasonably good lawyer, and from what I have read he was probably the reason why the Justice Verma Commission was able to publish its report in time. I understand he worked very hard and opened up his office, its facilities and directed his assistants to help in the completion of the Report. But you have the soap box syndrome acting up again. Gopal Subramanian spoke with a most peculiar accent, totally put on. I could not but laugh on hearing him.

Jokes apart, this was a rubbish documentary. It required to be singularly ignored by our powers that be. Unfortunately, this is not how we logical Indians work. I genuinely believe that the outrage that followed the rape was unprecedented. If India was close to a revolution, those were the days. The NDA Government headed by Sonia, Rahul and Dr Singh totally misread the whole situation. That was sad, and, I believe they have paid the price for that.

The mind-set that is Indian, the place of women in Indian society, the fact that women are now becoming more and more visible is something all of us have to come to grips with. We need a lot of documentaries, a lot of education and a lot of soul searching. This documentary was a terrible way of dealing with this huge issue. The banning has only made things more difficult.

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