This Christmas, I give you a movie about a woman who is finds her self having to…oh no, not again.
Available on Einthusan.
The movie starts out with…a man trying to rape a woman. However, another man intervenes. The first man pulls out a knife, a struggle ensues, and the would-be rapist accidentally stabs himself. It’s a Christmas Miracle. The man who stopped the rape is charged with murder and brought to trial. Instead of arguing the facts of the case, he says that he has killed thousands of men when fighting in war and was never charged with murder…okay…He tells the judge that he deems rapists as enemies on par with those who seek to destroy India, so why should he be charged with a crime this time?
And…that is the end of that plotline. I am guessing that that is there for the sole purpose of making sure that the audience understands the main theme of the movie. Otherwise, the thirty-seven minutes that follow the opening credits would really mislead the audience. So, on to the main story.
Bharti has just won a beauty pageant that is judged by the audience. She is crowned beauty queen and is the model for a big company. Through a series of events that I won’t bother to summarize due to their not making sense, she is introduced to a particularly supportive audience judge, a rich businessman named Ramesh. He is invited to her little celebratory dinner with her boyfriend Ashok and teenage sister Nita. Ramesh tells Bharti that he would like to throw a party in celebration of her winning the beauty pageant and she accepts.
While Bharti is thoroughly in love with Ashok (to an extent that annoys Nita), there are smalls signs that they are not quite on the same page. Ashok is perfectly willing to house a bratty (but practical-minded) sister-in-law, but he also tells Bharthi that he wants to her to be a housewife to the twelve children that he wants them to have and that he will stop modeling except for his benefit. This little plan that he puts forth comes after his own father states his acceptance of her being a professional woman. Exactly how serious these two men are regarding their opposing statements is up for debate, especially as Ashok has this huge mischievous grin as he lays all of this out for an irritated Bharti.
At the same time Ramesh appears to be making serious overtures for Bharti’s affections beyond supporting her during the pageant and showing up at one of her photoshoots. He drives Nita to high school and asks her what Bharti’s birthday is. He plans a big birthday party just for her, where he gives her a diamond necklace. When she says that she cannot accept such a huge gift, he lies that it is fake. Ashok, in contrast, completely forgot her birthday.
Soon after the party, Ramesh asks to come over to Bharti’s place to show her photographs of the party. He also has a surprise for her: a big portrait of her. Ramesh arrives just as Nita leaves for school. Bharti looks at the photographs and Ramesh tells her to close her eyes. He takes unveils the portrait and is about to show it to her when Ashok calls up and Bharti picks up the phone without looking the picture. Ramesh is a little bit annoyed that Bharti is not paying attention to him, so he turns the radio up a little bit. Bharti didn’t see what he did, so she just takes the phone to her bedroom. Ramesh gets enraged, throws portrait to the ground and stomps on it.
Bharti is upset that Ashok called over an hour before he said that he would. Ashok makes up some odd excuse about being so in love that he forgot. Then he says that they will get engaged. I find it a little odd that they are having this conversation over the telephone, but Bharti is ecstatic. She tells him that she loves him. She hangs up the phone and a furious Ramesh grabs her hand.
So…the next five minutes or so is Ramesh assaulting Bharti, tying her up, and raping her. Given that this is Bollywood in the 1980s, it is less graphic than it could have been…but I will just skim through this part. One thing to know is that Nita briefly comes back, sees Ramesh raping Bharti, and runs out in tears. That plot point comes back later on.
Eventually Ramesh is arrested and Bharti consults with a lawyer about whether to testify. The lawyer tells her that it is important that she testify to help other women, but she also warns her that it will be traumatic and humiliating. Ashok does not want her to testify, but Bharti wants to. Meanwhile, Ramesh waits in prison, seemingly remorseful over his heinous act. His lawyer, however, insists that they go with the narrative that there was no rape.
The trial segment of the movie is quite long. At around 37 minutes, it takes about the same amount of running time as the parts between the opening credits and the rape scene. The first time that I saw this movie, I wondered if the trial scene would take up the rest of the movie. And, honestly, I would not have minded that. It is not exactly realistic, though this movie has a somewhat odd relationship with realism. What it is is brutally honest. While Bharti’s lawyer may have gone a little too far in ascribing motives to Ramesh’s activities before the rape, she most definitely forces the viewer to look at his actions in a different light than how they were presented for the most part. Ramesh’s lawyer, however, says pretty much everything that I could have imagined him saying, from talking about the sexual casualness of modern society to mocking Bharti’s profession as a model to outright calling her a disgrace to Indian womanhood for speaking up about the alleged rape. This entire segment was hard to watch, yet I could not look away. If someone asks why rape victims do not come forward, this forty-minute sequence could count as an answer.
The nine or ten minutes that follow the courtroom segment could have been the ending of the movie. It would have made for a completely different movie from what it ultimately is, but it could still count as an ending. The last quarter of the movie ups the ridiculous factor by a bit and drags on more than I would have liked, but I would not necessarily say that it is a let down from what came before.
Lest one feel like going on a rant about the horrors of rape in India, I feel the need to point out that this movie is a remake of an American film called Lipstick, which was released in 1976. That movie isâ€¦not my cup of tea. Insaf Ka Tarazu may have been smutty for the standards of Bollywood movies in the early 1980s, but Lipstick just comes across as sleazy. The stories are similar enough, but I feel like the remake benefits from a much longer lead up. The original character of the rapist seemed more of an outcast who makes awful electronic experimental music. The remake turns him into a successful businessman, which could be seen as clichÃ©. More importantly, though, he is a symbol of male entitlement; someone who does the right thing over and over again for a woman because he wants to bed her, and then lashes out when she does not act like his romantic prize.
I could point out other reasons why I prefer the remake, but that would be tangential to this post. I will say that a few of the more questionable narrative choices in the remake beyond the first few minutes have basis in the original movie. In some instances, the remake takes some awkward plot point from Lipstick and ramps it up to a ridiculous level. In other instances, the remake either downplays or better rationalizes the weird story turns of the original. So, it kind of evens out.
Soâ€¦is this a movie to watch on Christmas? Welâ€¦no. As you may have figured out, my schedule for my WTF ASIA picks rarely correspond with special days. Still, this is something to check out some time if you feel up for it.
Next Time: Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? (Japan: 1932, approx. 85 minutes)
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Time After Next: The Missing Gun (China: 2002, approx. 90 minutes)