The dialog on consent has been raging for a while now; it was only a matter of time before Bollywood jumped onto the bandwagon. It did so with Shoojit Sircar’s Pink, a movie that has garnered more reviews, laudation and attention than any other movie released this year, going on to win the National Award for Best Film on Social Issues at the 64th National Film Awards. It surpassed the 36-crore mark in its first two weeks, and has given rise to a nation-wide rhetoric on sexual consent.
It has been a while since Bollywood outdid itself. And when I say Pink outdid itself, I don’t mean as a movie. It may have had its flaws, direction-wise, but when it came to offering up a hard-hitting message succinctly, and with no trace of ambiguity, Shoojit Sircar did a far better job than even the highest rung on the bar Bollywood has set for itself. The very same bar, that raises by a few inches every year, but has never soared through the glass ceiling before.
It is so often that we see or hear of attempts being made to make “women-centric”, “women-friendly” or self-proclaimed “feminist” movies. It is even oftener, that these movies fail abysmally, thickly underlining the very misogyny and inequality they try to counter. Think Cocktail, where we’re told that the independent woman always loses out to the coy, pious Indian girl. Or the boxing-flick Sultan, where a promising wrestler gives up her Olympic medal dreams in deference to the hero’s dreams and his journey. Or the more recent Badrinath Ki Dulhania, where the hero gags and shoves his lady-love in the trunk of his car because she won’t love him back! So many movies miss the point completely.
Pink could very easily have gone down that path. It could have made a point against molestation and attempts to intimidate women, while at the same time, illegitimising those very women’s choices and decisions. Pink does not do that. It states, categorically, and irrevocably, that no means no. Attempted rape is attempted rape, even if the woman in question has accepted money to perform an act.
The film is about three young girls implicated in a crime. Rajveer Singh (Angad Bedi) gropes and molests Minal Arora (Tapsee Pannu) at a party. In an act of self-defence, she hits his head and seriously injures him. Rajveer and his friends try to build a case against the girls to prove that they are, in fact, sex workers, who were attempting to solicit the men in question. In the court trial, Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari) flips over her restrained, quiet self in a climax-worthy scene, where she fiercely admits to soliciting money in exchange for sex and demands to know how exactly that makes a difference to the case.
In an unforeseen move, Falak changes the dialog around completely. She (falsely) admits to the charge and reiterates that legally, that still does not let Rajveer and his friends off the hook.
She brings us to an interesting bylane in the dialog over consent—is it still attempted rape, if a woman agrees to it, accepts money for it, and changes her mind later? If you don’t get a service you paid for, does it entitle you to grab it by force? The Constitutional section on rape offers no redressal for this particular circumstance, and the question hangs heavily over us—does this change the case against the men?
It doesn’t. Attempted rape is attempted rape, a grievous offence, and having paid for sex does in no way entitle a person to another person’s body, man or woman, sex worker or not.
The brilliance of Pink isn’t in the fact that it establishes the importance of consent; everyone and their aunt has been doing that lately. (Though Pink does a commendable job of it.) No, its sheer brilliance lies in that one little scene, that screamed, false admittance. It teaches people (not just men) that nothing entitles you to someone’s body without their consent, not even paying for it.
For those who still miss the point, here’s a simple analogy. When the shoes you ordered on Amazon don’t arrive, or go out of stock, do you demand a refund, or do you barge into their warehouses and pick out a pair for yourself?
The case for consent, rests here.
Image Credit: HamaraPhotos