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A little late, I watched Chhapaak and realised that despite claiming to be empowered, we are still not safe, we are still brutalised. Will this ever change?
I finally watched Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak. The story inspired by Lakshmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor, and a fighter. It was powerful and thought-provoking movie.
The movie shows the ugliness of the society and how we place a woman’s identity entirely on her physical appearances. Thanks to this, some men believe that attacking this appearance will scar their existence. The movie focuses on the gruesome reality of the increasing number of acid attacks in the country.
There’s something unique about Chhapaak. It doesn’t begin and end with the struggles of Malti alone. The movie also sheds light upon the stories of other women who were affected by acid attack.
In the movie, Malti is shown working in an NGO that is run by Alok (Vikrant Massey) for acid attack survivors. One thing that is always assumed about acid attacks is that it happens because of the refusal of a love interest by the woman. However, this movie highlights the fact that there are various reasons why women are subjected to this brutality.
The ‘Chaya Team’ comes across various such cases, where women are attacked with acid for various reasons. Right from the refusal of love to having dreams about their future against someone else’s wishes.
It was an eye-opener about the society we live in when a survivor in the movie spoke about her attack. She and her sister were attacked with acid because they wanted to study and excel, despite belonging to a ‘lower caste’.
While I am not a film critic, I can definitely say that the movie makes you think on a deeper level, about the brutality women face. The screams of the women attacked, their pain, tears and their struggles to live life is something that makes us wonder. It made me wonder why a human would do something like this to anyone else?
Can you even begin to imagine how traumatic and painful it would have been for a 16-year-old to go through such brutality? To survive the entire process of a trial and emerge a ray of hope for the women like her?
Don’t we all have stories where we were subjected to something that scarred our lives simply because we made a choice for ourselves? I don’t know about you, but I have a story.
At 15, I was almost a victim of mob justice for something I didn’t even understand.
Mob justice/instant justice occurs in various towns and cities in India. It happens when someone is suspected to be a criminal or somehow has disrespected the religious or social boundaries set by the society. That’s when a group of people tries to bring them to justice by beating them with anything they can lay their hands on. In a number of cases, the ‘criminals’ have been immolated, or beaten up till they died. It is illegal but it still happens on a large scale in our country.
I don’t talk about it because even today, it sends down chills down my spine. Being surrounded by the ‘moral guardians’ who wanted to tell me how I was wrong for having made a decision. Well, how bright did they expect a 15-year-old’s decisions to be? The fear I felt when the huge group of people surrounded me and wanted to ‘punish’ me, still resides in my heart.
I carry it everywhere and ever since I have been extra paranoid about everything. After I moved to a city from a small town, for work, I was scared of pretty much everything. I was even scared of enjoying basic things, like hanging out with friends, going for a girls’ night, or just loitering about in the street. Even after all those years, I still have that fear.
What if I offend someone? Or what if someone sees something wrong in an otherwise, absolutely normal thing that I’m doing? What if my dressing makes me stand out? And what if it gives someone the wrong signal? What if, someone gropes me in public transport? Or what if calling them out provokes them? What if…?
But why don’t you answer these questions for us?
Is it so wrong for a woman to choose a partner for herself?
Or for women to ask for equal rights?
Why is it that society assumes that it is in its right to violate women who make choices for themselves?
And why are girls taught how to sit, stand, walk and even laugh?
Why does one ‘wrong’ choice often cost a woman her life?
And why do women have to fight battles at a different level for being treated as humans? Why would someone think that it is okay for them to abuse, attack and violate women just because they did not live up to someone’s unrealistic expectations?
After so many years of independence, why do women still burn in cages in our country?
Why are there still 1,00,000 per year, women who die because of dowry harassment in India?
And why do we still wake up to news where minor children and women are raped brutally?
Why does India still rank the 4th in acid attacks?
And again, why can’t a woman afford to say ‘NO’ in this society?
With all these questions left unanswered, what difference does celebrating women’s day make for an average modern woman? It did not make any difference for me other than just a few sale offers and an awkward women’s get together at work. And of course, men pointing fingers at us asking why there’s no Men’s Day.
Many try to tell me the situation for women is better than maybe in the past centuries.
If you think that this world where women are still silenced, abused, raped, and killed for honour, is BETTER, maybe it’s time for you to understand your privileges and rethink your sanity!
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Still from the movie Chhapaak
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A twenty-something feminist, who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over 6
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