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The Chhapaak team conducted a social experiment in which Deepika in her makeup as Malti, along with 4 other acid attack survivors went out shopping. What happened then?
Filmmaker Meghna Gulzar’s new film Chhapaak, based on the real life experiences of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, is due to be released this week. As part of the promotions, the team, along with actor Deepika Padukone, who essays the role of the protagonist, carried out an interesting social experiment.
Deepika went out in public with her makeup as acid attack survivor Malati on, along with a few other actual survivors. They went together shopping, and noted the reactions of people who saw them, without recognising her as Deepika herself.
Before beginning the social experiment, CCTV cameras were set up at key areas, so that they could later see what the reactions of people to them truly were.
At the beginning of the video, Deepika says in Hindi, “Jab Deepika bahar jaati hai toh sab pehchaan jaate hai. Kabhi kabhi lagta hai main chhip jaaoon…lekin aaj main chhahti hoon ki sab Malti ka chehra dekhein…” (When I go out as Deepika, everyone recognises me. Sometimes I feel like hiding… but today I want people to see Malti’s face…)
In a mobile store
The first go to a movie store, where Deepika as Malti asks a girl there if they can take a selfie with her. The girl agrees readily and takes the selfie, but people standing around are noted to be staring at them in disgust.
In a supermarket
Privileged, educated people think that we are very enlightened. But when Deepika as Malti went to a supermarket with the other survivors, they experienced a curious thing.
Many were shocked at seeing them; some moved away from them, and some turned away from them. Some women frowned on seeing them there, and a gentleman whom they asked for some help completely ignored their presence. There were, however, some people who treated them normally, without showing any adverse reaction.
In a clothes market
Many shop-owners here refused to show them any wares – the same shop-owners who usually call women to check the material they sell!
The group went to shopping to many places in the area, and found most people avoiding or ignoring them, or even behaving rudely with them. These are the same people who post lofty messages and statuses on social media, but their mindsets remain the same narrow ones. Until this changes, there is going to be no real change in society.
And what about the men who have done this to them? They must certainly be moving around unchecked in society, because we do not know their faces, while their victims face persecution of various kinds. How would those who behaved in this manner handle it if it was someone they loved, or themselves, who were affected?
I showed this video to some of my friends and asked them how they would react if they met any acid attack survivors. Some said they would not have any problems, but a few admitted they they would be hesitant, and not know how to handle it.
The question is – Why? And the answer is – because we still haven’t let go of our thinking. We are hypocrites, who say big things when we are on social media, but our faces are unmasked… when we feel we are not being observed.
Until this changes, not much can be expected from society, even though slow change is certainly seen.
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