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5 Bollywood Movies That Will Stop You From Dismissing Your Own Abuse

Whether it is raising one’s voice against injustice or starting therapy, nothing can be achieved if we allow the world to impact our decisions. 

Trigger Warning: A few films mentioned in this article deal with the serious themes of rape and sexual violence and may be triggering to survivors.

It’s been 28 months since I was sexually assaulted and exactly two years since I spoke about my abuse for the first time. While the entire process of receiving legal and social justice was made possible because of a few supportive individuals around me, Bollywood certainly played a major role in helping me realise what had happened to me. Here are a few movies that helped me:

Guilty (2020)

This is a film that I have watched at least fifteen times since 2020. While there are various flaws in the film when it comes to its understanding and depiction of the Metoo movement in India, it certainly does a great job at challenging the various gendered stereotypes that exist in Indian society.

The film is about a popular and privileged south Delhi boy being accused of rape by a girl who is known to have had romantic and sexual feelings for him. As the film progresses, the viewers are made to question their personal opinions about what actually happened between the two of them. Guilty explains the true meaning of consent to the Indian audience – something that needs to be taken at every stage of a sexual encounter.

Another thing that this film does successfully is that it presents both sides of the alleged event in a clear manner without trying to influence the thoughts of the audience in any way. However, by the end, one realises that they must never judge a book by its cover – things aren’t as simple as they appear to be in cases of sexual violence. 

Thappad (2020)

“Just one slap, lekin nahi maar saktaa!” (meaning: Just one slap, but he can not hit me).

Is a slap a good enough reason to end a relationship? Is the protagonist, Amrita overreacting by not forgiving her husband after he slapped her? These are a few questions that the audience might constantly ask themselves while watching Thappad.

This film is not about patterns of domestic violence or an abusive marital relationship. It is, instead, about a woman who gets slapped by her husband just once and decides to take a stand for herself. Amrita, despite being a happily married homemaker, does not dismiss her discomfort by treating it as a one-time event.

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Thappad beautifully takes the viewers through its female protagonist’s life choices and introduces them to the other women around her (her neighbour, lawyer, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law). By doing so, the film brings out the subtle ways in which women are patronised by men on a daily basis (For example, Amrita’s husband looks at his successful female neighbour and asks in a scornful tone, “What exactly does she do?”). 

The reason why this film helped me was that it made me realise how important is it to raise one’s voice the moment things get uncomfortable. Misogyny is so deeply internalised in all of our subconscious minds that we constantly overlook problematic behavioural patterns, justify the actions of men and silence our own selves. It is time for us to stand up – for ourselves and for the entire female race.

Pink (2016)

“Charitr jab pavitr hai to kyu hai ye dashaa teri? Ye paapiyo ko haq nahi ki lein pareeksha teri.” (Meaning: Why are you feeling helpless when you know that your character is pure? These wrongdoers have no right to test you.)

I have heard a lot of people criticise Pink by saying that it depicts an encounter between two individuals with extreme personality traits and human values – the most liberal woman in the country and the most regressive, intolerant, and sexist man. In other words, the defenders of patriarchy would say that if a man like Rajveer meets a woman like Meenal, he is bound to violate her consent. Well, I must tell such individuals that violation of consent has nothing to do with how the victim presents themselves. In other words, women like Meenal can’t be disrespected just because they wish to be as free as the men in our country.

According to me, Pink is highly accurate in its portrayal of those who can not take ‘no’ for an answer. The film deliberately does not antagonise any character, nor does it whitewash the acts committed by Rajveer or Meenal. In fact, the message of the film remains open to interpretation till the very end.

Pink helped me gain more confidence in my narrative. I, like most of the sexual assault survivors/victims in this world, was constantly made to feel as if I was wrong to have been in an empty room with my abusers or that I had asked for trouble by being cordial or ‘over-friendly’ with the man who ended up violating my consent. However, as mentioned earlier, it is never the victim’s fault.

Dear Zindagi (2016)

Dear Zindagi was one of the first Bollywood films that dealt with the themes of therapeutic alliance and healing. The film isn’t centered around sexual violence, but still focuses on repressed feelings that might take years to resurface.

The film’s protagonist, Kaira is someone who is shown to follow her heart when it comes to her professional and personal life. However, by doing so, she attracts the judgement of society and the snarky comments of a few of her relatives (most Indian relatives won’t let you live if you don’t do what’s socially acceptable). Her journey of acceptance, admittance, and forgiveness leads her to be able to express her emotions fully. This is something that a lot of women struggle with because their anger is usually considered unnatural. By the end of the film, Kaira gains faith in her own caliber and potential despite people constantly telling her that she needs a man for a successful career and a happy life.

This film taught me how important it is to do what is right for oneself without listening to what others have to say. Whether it is raising one’s voice against injustice or starting therapy, nothing can be achieved if we allow the world to impact our decisions. 

Queen (2013)

The Indian society often reduces the self-worth of a woman to the relationship she shares with the (main) man in her life. While a lot of people might argue that times have changed, we have to agree that the aforementioned statement still stands true for most of the women in our country. Queen is a movie that tries its best to dismantle such patriarchal notions about how a woman needs to define herself. It explains that the violence inflicted upon women isn’t always physical in nature, but also emotional and mental.

After the protagonist, Rani’s fiance leaves her right before their marriage, she decides to utilise her honeymoon tickets by traveling to France all by herself. During the time that she spends in a country completely foreign to her, she allows herself to hear all the voices in her head that she had been silencing for too long. Those voices are basically those of her ex-partner who had left no chance to make Rani feel insecure about herself.

Her recollections make the audience realise how women are usually expected to alter their personalities to please society. In a scene, Rani remembers her fiance telling her that he felt embarrassed seeing her dance her heart out. In another scene, she recalls him using the stereotype of women being terrible drivers to make her lose all her confidence as a driver.

Queen helped me understand how important it was for me to acknowledge all the red flags I had been constantly ignoring when it came to my abuser’s conduct.

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About the Author

Upasana Dandona

A literature student who spends most of her time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...

23 Posts | 102,763 Views

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