'Unn 6 mein shaamil tum bhi thhey: silence is complicity'. It has been almost one year since the Delhi Braveheart was brutally raped, battered and left to die on a busy Delhi street by six men.
But by looking the other way when a girl is being harassed, by telling a family member
to 'let it go' when she had been molested and by letting our boys grow up into men with a sense of entitlement, did we contribute to the malaise?
That is the question Jurrat - an initiative that aims to fight against gender and sexual violence - is asking. It not only wants to change the way men look at women but also how women perceive themselves.
Jurrat karo: take a stand, put in a punch, fight. Launched in Delhi on Tuesday, the initiative had actor Swara Bhaskar coming together with bands Swaang and Majma. Their aim: to jolt the country out of its complicity, its silence.
The actor believes the Braveheart was a victim of India's complacency. "It was the sheer brutality and heinousness of the crime that shook up India and brought it out on the streets. However, we need to introspect and question ourselves as well. The girl, after being raped, lay there on the road for half an hour. None of the cars stopped to help her. This is a dangerous trend for us as a society. Through this initiative, we want to shake that complacency."
She believes India did change after that dark night in December last year. "Even the way media reports such incidents have changed. There is so much more support for the survivor. Even people as powerful as retired Justice AK Ganguly or Tarun Tejpal have been investigated for allegations of sexual assault. Nothing changes overnight and we have to keep at it. Things are changing but it's a long road ahead," she says.
Swara talks about everyone doing their bit in whatever capacity they have. So how does Bollywood, known for sexualising and objectifying women, fit into this scheme of things? "I completely agree that films objectify women. But then, films only reflect what is already there. It is a vicious cycle. We need to understand that films are driven by the market and jo bikta hai who he dikhta hai. We cannot expect the market to take the high road. That has to come from within us."
In such a scenario, how does she justify playing Bindiya in Raanjhana - a girl who is shoved around, abused and even hit by the man she loves? "Bindiya is an interesting character and this is how I interpreted her. There was a certain chemistry and a quality of love that she has with Dhanush's character. Her love is innocent and we need to see it in its right context."
She calls herself a "responsible actor" who has refused roles in the past because she felt they didn't depict women in the right light. And that brings her to another major issue: the audience's acceptance of such things. Yo Yo Honey Singh being a case in point.
"After certain objectionable songs of Singh came to light last year, people refused to go to his concerts and some of them were cancelled. However, audience kept on listening to his music and today all big stars and producers are working with him. Some of the lyrics were so objectionable that he should have booked for hate crimes. The change needs to begin with us and we need to question ourselves first."
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