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Despite its victim blaming, and warped attitudes to victims of rape, this movie, Benaam Badshah proved to be a hit. What does it say about us?
“Aurat ki izzat par agar ek baar daag lag jaye, toh woh kabhi nehin dhul sakta hai” – Benaam Badshah
25 June 2018, it was raining heavily and I was enjoying the movie Benaam Badshah with a bowl of creamy chocolate ice cream when I found a certain transformation in me. Apparently that day I had taken leave from my work as I thought there is no point getting outdoors as I will get drenched and I do not wish to travel in wet clothes when I felt attuned with Jyoti played by Juhi Chawla in the movie Benaam Badshah.
Now this was certainly a new feeling for me as once upon a time I had enjoyed this movie then; why now am I so disturbed when I am watching one of my favorites? And the answer is; this particular movie promoted sexism, Rape Culture and Misogyny. The reason why I felt attuned has been cited below.
For those who aren’t conversant with the term Rape Culture please know this is a Watsonian concept where rape is prevalent and normalized due to gender and sexuality. It includes slut shaming, victim blaming, denial of rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by any form of sexual atrocities and lot more.
Directed by K Ravi Shankar and released in the year 1991 the movie Benaam Badshah is shown in flashback where Jyoti played by Juhi Chawla, is a beautiful woman who moves into a locality to get material for her novel. Here she tries to woo Deepak played by Anil Kapoor (he was the unnamed Badshah who was later named as Deepak by Jyoti) a badass gangster into marrying her. The film reveals that Deepak was abandoned in a garbage bin by his biological parents and grew up to be a paid gunman, kidnapper, rapist and committing all sorts of heinous crimes one can imagine. He works for a lecherous gangster Jaikal played by Amrish Puri who is hand in glove with Kaameshwari played by Rohini Hattangadi. Kameshwari runs an orphanage for young girls and in process supplies them to Jaikal so that he can satiate his sexual appetite.
Jyoti comes to know of this plot and exposes Kaameshwari who then lands behind bars. On release from prison Kaameshwari hires Deepak to rape Jyoti on her wedding night which Deepak happily agrees to. Post the traumatic rape Jyoti refuses to marry the doctor husband who was still ready to accept her as his wife. Years later Jyoti after constantly cajoling Deepak feigns a pregnancy and forces him to marry her. Not only that, she turns him into a decent gentleman who refuses to work for Jaikal anymore. Jyoti even bears a son for Deepak. Jaikal tries to take revenge on Deepak for betraying him sends his henchmen with bomb to kill Deepak but in process Jyoti gets killed. The film ends in a typical Bollywood style with Deepak killing Jaikal and moving away with his son to lead a life on the good principles taught by Jyoti with the cops and justice forgiving all his crimes.
As a little girl I was so excited to watch Deepak’s transformation that I chose to ignore several loopholes in the movie. The first disturbing message is when Jyoti tries to woo the drunken, smelly, violent villain into marrying her. A rapist as per law deserves a punishment under the law but here the director justifies the marriage to a rapist with this rancid dialogue “Aurat ki izzat par agar ek baar daag lag jaye, toh woh kabhi nehin dhul sakta hai” (Once a woman’s virginity is ruined after rape things cannot turn into normal). This part was so overwhelming that it counters the several other good factors of the movie and carry a very poor weight age.
On 30 August 2016 the Indian Express had cited that there were over 34,600 rape cases reported in India where the culprits deserve a rigorous imprisonment, but here in this movie the director has very conveniently gone in for victim blaming and promoted the fact that one can marry a rapist and there is nothing wrong in it. Ah! That reminds me of that powerful man who had molested me standing right in the middle of road. Being a single woman now it’s my turn to cajole that thoughtless womanizer to be my discreet lover so that I can change him and get him to marry me. So I am not in tune with Jyoti? Sigh! And I have full rights in making this statement. Aren’t we influenced by Bollywood? This movie was a blockbuster despite this drawback as it promoted inane stunts and violence.
The second deranged fact was when it portrayed Kaameshwari as a supplier of young girls to Jaikal. Jaikal rapes each of these women and his notoriety gets unnoticed by law. This very point to slut shame a woman I found extremely objectionable. Kaameshwari in a drunken state even says to Jaikal, “Tune utni murgiya nehin khaya hoga jitna ladkiyan mein ne tereko khilaya hein” (You may not have eaten so many chicken in compared to the number of females I have supplied you and you have feasted). We the masses get highly influenced by Bollywood numbers and what a shoddy message is this? Does that mean an orphanage for young woman is a place to promote prostitution? And it was such an insensible dialogue which can trigger a man to see a woman with lustful eyes. Shame!
This resonated with an article which I read recently and it said that aid organizations estimate that 20 to 65 million Indians have already passed through the hands of human traffickers at one point in their lives. Ninety percent of them remain within India’s national borders, and the majority are female and under the age of 18. “Human trafficking works because the victims are afraid and cannot communicate,” says Pallavi, who works as a social worker. “India is so large that is not necessary to sell women and girls abroad,” she says. “If they are Bengalis from the northeastern part of the country, they don’t understand a word when they arrive in Mumbai.” Pallavi has been working for a number of years in Mumbai’s red light district of Khetwadi and, for security reasons; she requested that her last name not be divulged. Working for the aid organization Prerana, she provides counseling to girls who can take shelter in three emergency centers that are open 24 hours a day.
The third disturbing factor was portrayed through Savitri ma who initially shelters Jyoti when she comes to the locality where Deepak resided. In the movie it was shown Savitri ma was married to a drunkard husband who had abandoned her after looting all her jewels. Savitri ma still wears a mangalsutra and waits patiently for that man to come back in her life. Her eyes moisten when Jyoti reminds her of that tragic episode and she agrees to support Jyoti in her mission to coax that criminal into marrying her. Hear me out misogynistic society, I am without a man since one decade and I don’t even expect my ex to come back to me and say sugar coated words. There should be no mercy for these men who ill treat a woman but here again our Bollywood produces an inane movie which turns to a blockbuster.
As a raging feminist I would like to conclude the analysis with a positive note. This movie though supported rape culture and misogyny was still a blockbuster. The fact it became a megahit for all its violence is something which certainly no women will appreciate but as a women I found certain favorable points as well. The orphaned boy who later turned as a villain was found in a dustbin. To any parent who had been subjected to unwanted pregnancy you can either go for abortion or if it is too late to abort, raise that child bravely. Mothers are far superior to a man and you will need no help from that nihilist chap and I can assure you of that. I have been raising my daughter alone and I am happy she is growing up as a bold lady and as I said I do not have a man in my life. Secondly if you notice any wrong doing in an orphanage or anywhere near your localities please report the crime. Jyoti busted Kaameshwari’s misdeeds and she remained unapologetic of her stand. As we all should be. And stand up against slut shaming, victim blaming. Let them go sit on a cactus, those victims blaming shaky. Enough said!
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