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Chhorii starring Nushrratt Bharuccha is another horror movie challenging the patriarchal standards that persist in society!
Adding to the list of horror movies that use the genre to challenge patriarchal standards, Chhorii is a scathing look at the so-called moral standards using which women are judged and turned into ‘witches’.
When does a chhorii (girl) become a chudail (witch)? Like the brilliant Bulbul from last year, Chhorii asks this question poignantly, making us search deep within ourselves for the answer. Bulbul becomes a witch in order to protect the women and girls of her village when she dies after suffering patriarchal torture at the hands of her husband and brother-in-law. Why is the witch in Chhorii a witch?
An amazing Nushrratt Bharuccha stars as Sakshi, a pregnant woman who comes to a remote village with her husband to escape loan sharks. But all is not right there, and Sakshi can sense it. The real horror is the patriarchal nature of their hosts, rather than the supernatural beings. Will Sakshi be able to escape with her and her unborn child’s lives? Watch Chhorii (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video) to find out.
My best friend (an economics major who happens to be wildly feminist) once mentioned the history of witchcraft and capitalist notions of normalcy. Another time, I read an Instagram comment about the pro-life stance having to do with economics. It was the duty of women to bear children and supply more labourers to be cogs in the capitalistic machinery, so they could not be allowed to have abortions. Considering all this, of course, women who deviate from the patriarchal, capitalistic standards are deemed witches. How else can they be controlled?
The idea that women are treated as merely means to an end is taken to the extreme in Chhorii. Baby girls are literally offered as sacrifice in return for a good harvest. I interpreted this to be a metaphor for women in patriarchal society being used and treated badly, just to gain profits (financial or otherwise). And of course, we still have witch hunts – they may take different forms now, but they are still essentially the same – for those women who refuse to be caged in by these oppressive norms.
There is a point in the film when Sakshi accuses Bhanno Devi’s (the matriarch who enables the patriarchal men in her family) life as being a sham. Bhanno Devi retorts that her life is not a sham, but Sakshi’s life is. That line will haunt me for longer than the ghosts in the movie!
We like to pretend that we’re so progressive and it’s just the rural areas that still carry the patriarchy forward. But secretly, the supposedly liberal cities have not escaped the grips of the patriarchy either. Witch hunts are not a thing of the past. Just look at how society went after Taylor Swift for dating ‘too many’ men and not settling into the monogamous family unit that the patriarchy favours so much. Not even female celebrities manage to escape it! That’s how strong the grip of the patriarchy is.
But we must continue becoming witches. That is our only hope if we want to dismantle the patriarchy (and other oppressive systems that force us into boxes). We must make it difficult for them to control us. As the line from Taylor Swift’s The Last Great American Dynasty goes, we have to have, “A marvelous time ruinin’ everything”.
Image source: Still from Chhorii
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