Then there are some movies that you carry home long after they are over. For me, Kahaani 2 was one such movie which brought to light an issue so integral in our society, the mere thought of which makes us all cringe.
(Warning – spoilers ahead)
Vidya Balan’s presence on screen is powerful without seeming overbearing, and her role as the devoted single mother of a physically challenged girl in Kahaani 2 warms the heart. However, the movie doesn’t seem as simple as that and soon picks up without letting the viewer feel a lull in the pace.
The daughter’s kidnapping along with Balan’s horrific accident makes one wonder where the movie could really go from here.
Then come the twists and turns that Sujoy Ghosh, the director, is famous for. We travel back in time to when Balan worked in the admissions department of a school. The grey skies of Kalimpong, West Bengal set the tone for a sombre mood. Soon a young girl of 6 years enters the frame whom Balan tries to befriend. A few days later, the girl before leaving from school finally speaks to her and utters these words, “Woh mujhe sone nahin dete.” (They don’t let me sleep).
Fear grips the heart and for a moment I felt the air escape my lungs. The girl’s vacant and listless eyes remind Balan of her own past traumatic past. This is evident as we see her struggling to sustain a romantic relationship. Balan, unable to get the girl’s words out of her head decides to impersonate as her teacher and take home tuitions in order to get the girl to open up. She is soon horrified to discover that her suspicions are correct. It brings to the fore an issue that is so prevalent in our society and one that is carefully concealed from the world.
According to UNICEF, child sexual abuse is engaging a child in any sexual activity that he/she does not understand or cannot give informed consent for or is not physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for. Abuse can be conducted by an adult or another child who is developmentally superior to the victim. This includes using a child for pornography, sexual materials, prostitution and unlawful sexual practices.
We have a description so specific and yet, so many seem unclear on what counts as child sexual abuse. Inherently, all of us as human beings do know that it is indeed wrong. The young girl through paintings tries to explain what she is going through as well as through gestures and pointing to the body. This highlights the fact that a young child – boy or girl – cannot understand what has transpired.
An elite family in the movie shows the darkest side of human society; where a young man (the girl’s uncle) abuses her and shows a complete lack of remorse, to the point of being arrogant and threatening in his passive aggressive style of talking to Balan. He stops her at a market and says that he picked up on the fact that she too may have been abused as a child and that she has ruined the young girl’s life by bringing this out in the open. He smirks while enquiring if it doesn’t it impact one’s sex life as an adult.
Perhaps the most sickening scene in the movie which mirrors harsh reality is when the grandmother is in the hospital with the young girl and says that weren’t the toys and dresses enough to remain quiet? It is a horrifying moment when one realises that the grandmother knew all along that her son was sexually abusing the young girl and was in fact helping cover it up. It’s not a state of denial but of complete acceptance and agreement to such a heinous crime; that too as a woman, her guardian.
Being in a movie hall kept me contained, as I would’ve cried out in extreme anger and sadness when the grandmother tells Balan that if the girl had such a problem with it, why wouldn’t she complain herself? It is in fact the family that must teach children about good touch and bad touch.
How is a young child to know that the people they call family and trust would express so called ‘affection’ in this manner? It’s absurd to expect a child who is not yet familiar with his or her own body parts to understand which forms of physical touch are appropriate and which are just not.
The movie informs us of the following crucial facts:
The courage and devotion of a woman who adopts the role of a parent tells us why love, empathy and humanity are what makes one a parent and not just biological procreation. The need to protect children must be inherent or even inculcated but it surely cannot and should not be absent.
We must wake up to the crimes that occur within homes and the people such incidents create, before we look to changing the world. And as women we carry the power to change – to teach our sons and daughters to respect one another and one’s personal rights.
Its ‘awkward’ when we hear Vidya telling the grandmother, on screen, that how is the girl to know that her uncle’s body parts are not toys if he is engaging her in such acts? But we have to get over our discomfort with such issues and conversations and realize that the trauma and pain that come about through such episodes are far worse than any anxiety or uneasiness one can possibly feel.
He or she is just a child after all. Is this the world we brought them into?
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