Tuesday 9 March 2021

Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime - Rod Bishop reports on two productions considering India's most notorious modern crime DELHI CRIME (Richie Mehta, India, 2019) and INDIA’S DAUGHTER (Leslee Udwin, UK/India, 2015)

“…They have no sex education but get free porn online which affects their adolescent brains. They don’t know how to interpret it. They objectify women and wish they could have that in their lives. If they don’t get it, they take it, with no regard to consequences…

This comment wasn’t made last week when widespread rape culture was revealed throughout Sydney’s private schools for boys.

It’s from Sub-Inspector Sudhir Kumar (Gopal Datt) en route from Delhi to Rajasthan in 2012. He’s tracking down one of the six men involved in a gang rape and sexual mutilation of a young woman on a moving Delhi bus. Her male companion was beaten but escaped alive.

Talking to his driver, Kumar also mentions the “the explosion of uneducated youth” in India, the growing gap between rich and poor and how these impoverished, marginalized perpetrators “have nothing to lose”.

The case was notorious in India and around the world and although Delhi Crime (streaming on Netflix) changes names and some locations, it’s very clear what the series is based on. The rape and mutilation are not shown on-screen but the doctors graphically describe the evil that occurred. The crime was indeed, to use the series’ descriptor, “heinous” and in this, Delhi Crime spares no-one.

Holding both the police procedural investigation and the series together is DCP Vartika Chaturvedi and she fully realizes they must capture the six perps before the case falls into the hands of the opposing forces around Delhi’s politized police force. 

Long criticized as incompetent for not protecting Delhi’s population from crimes, particularly those against women, Vartika quickly understands the politicians may intervene in ways that will destroy her case and any successful prosecution in the courts.

Shefali Shah, Delhi Crime

Shefali Shah is outstanding as Vartika. She simmers with rage at the “heinous” crime, she juggles her team of investigators, she lives in the police station until the rapist-murderers are caught and she tries to convince her daughter, who hates the city and wants to move to Toronto, that Delhi really does have an attractive side. 

Her character and many other police in this generic procedural are sympathetically portrayed and this had led some to criticize the series as ‘apologetic’ for the Delhi cops and a detraction from the vital story of huge India-wide street demonstrations demanding the country’s immediate change from its entrenched cultural misogyny.

Certainly, Leslee Udwin’s hour-long television documentary India’s Daughter (streaming on Amazon Prime) shows the significance of these demonstrations. Delhi Crime was hampered by budget considerations and couldn’t come close to showing the vastness of the crowds throughout the major cities. 

Nor could it spend time on the placards: “Women Take Back Your City” “It’s A Dress Not A Yes” “Our Silence Has Been Broken” “Don’t Teach Me What To Wear, Teach Your Sons Not To Rape” “Rape Is The Only Crime In Which The Victim Becomes The Accused” or the cries from the crowd to support previous victims “Give Support to Manorama Devi” (raped and tortured in 2004 by members of the paramilitary unit 17th Assam Rifles) “Give Justice To Nilofer and Asiya” (sisters-in-law raped and murdered by security forces in 2009) and “Give Justice To Soni Sori” (women’s rights activist jailed, tortured and sexually mutilated in 2011).

Kavita Krishnan from the All India Progressive Women’s Association:

Immediately, almost from day one, it has stopped being about this case alone. It has become about the culture and women’s generalized anger”.

India’s Daughter was banned from broadcast in India. Reasons given are many and varied, but the camera crew spent a week in the jail with the accused. An interview with the bus driver Mukesh, sentenced to death by hanging, is chilling in its unquestioning endorsement of the prevailing male attitude towards Indian women: 

A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night, doing wrong things, wearing the wrong clothes…about 20% of girls are good… [what we did] was to teach them a lesson…They thought if we do ‘wrong things’ with them, then they won’t tell anyone. Out of shame. Then they’ll learn a lesson…When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape.”

Just as chilling are the views of their defense lawyers:

M.L. Sharma:

In our society we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6.30 or 7.30 or 8.30 in the evening with any unknown person…They left our Indian culture. They were under the influence of the film culture, in which they can do anything…You are talking about a man and a woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. A woman means I immediately put the sex in his eyes. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman”.

After four of the accused received the death penalty, their defense lawyer A.P. Singh, gave an interview to the press:

If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this daughter or sister to my farmhouse and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

Four of the accused from the bus rape/torture/murder were hanged last year. One ‘committed suicide’ in jail and the sixth was a minor who was incarcerated for three years and has since been released.


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