‘We have to be more responsible in the way we portray women on screen’

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Photo: Ankit Agrawal

Do you think that organising programmes in a mall will achieve anything?
To assume that only people who live in slums don’t know what to do is a huge fallacy because violence against women is perpetrated by all classes of society. You will be shocked to know that female foeticide is practiced more in South Mumbai and South Delhi, apart from Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat. In the district of Mehsana, one girl had to marry four brothers because there weren’t any other girls left. It is the reality of India, so it is a classist observation that organising programmes in a mall won’t achieve anything. We need to appeal to all levels of society.

There have been demands to ban porn to tackle violence against women. Do you think this will help in curbing violence?
It is really for the sociologists to study that. But I do know that child pornography is banned all over the world.

Are political parties raising these issues just to score brownie points?

Well yes and no. Political parties are known to take up issues that they feel will get them maximum mileage. But why should we paint everybody with the same brush? It was only when political parties apart from civil-society protested, that the government set up the Justice J S Verma committee. We must insist that the political class reacts to situations like that and say that there must be zero-tolerance for violence.

Do you feel that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 passed by the Central government recently is adequate? 
It is in the implementation of laws that we find loopholes. Even after the law, look at the way the police behaved in the case of the five-year-old who was raped. They not only refused to file the FIR, but also tried to bribe the parents with two-thousand rupees. After that, a protestor was slapped by an ACP.

Why is Bollywood not keen to stand up for women like Soni Sori or dalit women?
See, a beginning has been made somewhere. Why did the press not make it a big issue? You can go on asking why this or that didn’t happen then. Instead, we must focus on the fact that there has been an outrage in civil-society which is giving out very important messages. The civil society is saying: shift the blame, shift the shame. Earlier, it was always the victim who was seen as the person to blame. Today we are saying it is the perpetrator who must feel the shame.

Though the whole film industry gave statements in solidarity after the 16 December gang-rape incident, the depiction of women on screen still remains regressive.
I think there is a huge churning going on in the film industry. The time has come for all of us to look within ourselves and see what we can do to help. We have to be more responsible in the way that we portray women. The concept of eve-teasing, which is quite rampant in films, must change.

Some feel that it would amount to restricting a filmmaker’s freedom of expression. Do you agree?
It is a very delicate situation and self-regulation is the only way we can go about this. We cannot hand ourselves over to the morality brigade to suddenly step up and say you can’t do this or that. It is ridiculous to suggest that rapes happen because because girls are wearing mini-skirts. Then what would you say when dalit women wearing veils are raped? Women should have the freedom to dress as they please. Her dress shouldn’t at all entitle anybody to attack her.

Do you think a change in the way women are portrayed in movies can take place in the near future?
Yes it will change and it is already changing because leading ladies are recognising that they have a role to play. In fact Priyanka Chopra recently demanded to scan the song and lyrics of an item number before agreeing to do it. I am sure that more girls will become socially conscious and refuse to being objectified.

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