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Vinta Nanda speaks up about her film #SHOUT that gives a voice to women silenced in a rape culture. The film is further being shut down by vested interests who feel it has exposed too much about violence by men.
Vinta Nanda has made a film #SHOUT about how women are silenced by their abusers, penalised severely for speaking up. But there are still many roadblocks to its much anticipated release.
“Silence is the most powerful scream. Many a time, a person will find himself in a situation where keeping quiet is better than responding to things that are not of utmost importance. Sometimes, it is safer to let your silence speak. When it comes to handling conflicts we all experience a tendency to either turn to violence or silence to resolve it, but the fact that silence is often the best cure for most of the troubles. Violence will never justify you rather it will behave as a force intended to hurt or damage a person.” So wrote Ishika Jain, a Std XII student in a Delhi school in 2016.(Times of India, September 29, 2016.)
Does she still believe in this statement she made seven years ago? What about Hathras and Unnao rapes and killings and other incidents of women and girl abuse?
A PTI report goes on to state that 30% of the the Nirbhaya Fund, of its total amount of Rs.6000 crore, set up after the gang rape of a paramedical student in 2012 has not been utilized yet. Nirbhaya Fund was established for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security of women in the country. A senior official told PTI that approximately 70 percent of the fund has been reported to be utilised. But the details of these expenses have not been recorded for the public. Why?
The famous saying, “Silence is Golden” is not true when it comes to the tremendous violence against women because it is this very silence that make women complicit in it. But to remain silent is a social conditioning which makes us, women, internalize violence so much that torture, abuse, rape, stalking, trafficking and even murder are considered a part of being born a girl. Why?
Some answers to these questions are found in the feature-length documentary film #Shout directed by Vinta Nanda, a well-known maker of television serials, documentary and feature films and most importantly now, for founding and editing an excellent online magazine on cinema called The Daily Eye from Mumbai. She has also created Entertainment Company named ACEE – The Third Eye. She has recently made a telling, 95-minute long documentary called #Shout which follows her now widely known charges against actor Alok Nath for having molested her. She has named the film #Shout because she does not believe in silence, specially among women, not only in India but right across the world.
The focus is mainly on the different perspectives on rape such as Dalit versus upper class, Muslim versus Hindu, weak versus powerful and so on very clearly.
Says Vinta, “Violence, suppression, dominance, discrimination, inequality and exclusion are generic terms to women’s issues, be it domestic violence, be it rape. The politics of the suppression of women and casual dismissal of women’s rights is pervasive. The thread binding us through the narrative of this film was Bhanwari Devi’s case and how the battle she fought relentlessly for years led to the promulgation of the Vishakha Guidelines in 1997, later superseded in 2013 by Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act.
It was during the #MeToo movement of 2018 when, finally and especially in the industry of media and entertainment, Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (POSH) committees were mandated to be implemented in all places of work.
This thread provided us the arc and therefore everything we covered was pertinent to the primary story we were telling. Domestic violence is important to address and cannot be made secondary or tertiary to another narrative. #SHOUT 2 is in discussion, so we have plans to go wider with the narration.“
The film launches a direct attack not only on the degree, range, the volume, the variety and quantity of oppression, marginalization and torture of women and girls, but also goes ahead to interview a large cross-section of activists, victims, lawyers, authors and administrators on the subject.
“Nobody knows injustice more intimately than women do,” is the sentence the film opens with, uttered by an independent, educated woman.
Cut to another woman who states: “It is a lack of commitment to women’s welfare.”
“Rape is part of the job. It is endemic. It is systemic” says the first lady.
The camera then cuts to a middle-aged lady who relates her personal experience about a situation when a man flashed his private parts at her brazenly, and she was too shocked to respond.
And so the film moves on, from interviews with documented clips of actual happenings, protests, and so on, covering the real life comments of people like Bhanwari Devi, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court Sujata Manohar, and Naseema Bano, the mother of the seven-year-old little girl who was gang-raped and killed and left on the hills add a third dimension to the film. The young Tara Kaushal, who has authored Why Men Rape, Urvashi Butalia, publisher of Kali for Women, Bant Singh, the Dalit leader who lost his limbs while fighting with the ruffians who raped his daughter but continues his fight, are also among those interviewed.
However, no sooner was some positive feedback coming from those who had already viewed #SHOUT, Vinta states that for a film which greatly moved the CBFC, which asked for minimal changes, her producers hired a man to force Vinta to dumb down the film. This man also gave her an ultimatum with the choice that either she makes the changes this man wants or the film will not go any further.
Vinta’s gut response is, “let it go no further.” She refuses to dumb it down or silence any of the voices.
It took Vinta Nanda three long, laborious and research-centric work to make the film possible, running to locations and people right across the country, speaking to celebrities, ordinary people and people from rural areas and less-educated classes. Add to this the lockdown and the pandemic. At least 100 experts were involved in the making of the film and eventually with consensus met by everyone, the film was locked and went to CBFC for certification. She is convinced that this sudden post-censorship censoring of her film is proof enough that it has reached the right ears, conscience and feelings of guilt, in other words, the large patriarchal world out there.
So, as her parting shot, Vinta Nanda says, to those who ask her to stop and to those who back her, “Break the shackles and walk away. Don’t be afraid of falling because that is how you learn how to get up. Filmmaking, and all art, is about falling and getting up, again and again. And, because you are afraid to fall, you fear coming to my side. Because you’re afraid to fall, you are addicted to controlling others. To my co-travellers on my side, I say, ‘You, like I, do know, that every time you allow someone to control your voice, you bend and you lose something that’s irretrievable.’”
As I said in the beginning, this explosive silence must end and we must not just shout, we must scream at the top of our voices till those other voices shouting at us will be forced to silence.
I am a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. I contribute regularly to around a dozen print media and online publications on Indian cinema, gender issues, human rights and child rights besides read more...
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