At 2am on April 30, 1999, Jessica Lal was shot dead at a Delhi pub. The incident shook the nation and after a public outcry over his initial acquittal, the accused Manu Sharma was sentenced to life imprisonment.
At the ongoing Taj Literature Festival in Agra, socialite Bina Ramani spoke about the Bollywood movie Rang De Basanti and how it helped make the verdict in the Jessica Lal murder case possible.
Bina Ramani says she has director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to thank.
Mehra’s Rang De Basanti was released in January 2006 and the verdict in the case was pronounced in December 2006 after a countless number of protests and candle-light marches.
Jessica was murdered at Ramani’s tony Tamarind Court Café and she became the most prominent witness in the case. Even though accused Manu Sharma, son of a powerful Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma, is behind bars, she still receives threats.
After Jessica’s murder, Ramani says she was constantly threatened, bribed and spent three days in Tihar Jail where she started writing Bird in a Banyan Tree – a memoir which was launched at the literary festival on Thursday.
She credits the media for tracking the case with keen interest as well as Rang De Basanti for the verdict. Ramani feels that had the incident occurred in some place other than Delhi, it would have disappeared from the news cycle.
Mehra, however, refused to take any credit for all that happened.
He said the protests that took place were bound to happen. The film, he dwelled, perhaps acted only as a catalyst at the most.
Protests do put the judiciary in the spotlight and give people a way to express their disagreement but they also alienate the masses from the government and its procedures.
When people take to the streets they start blaming the political system for every wrong in the society, much like what happens in the movie.
Mehra was spot on when he said that one needs to take initiative to change any system.
"You can't just sit at the fence and point fingers. You need to be part of the system if you want to bring about changes," he said.
While Ramani and Mehra both point out that young men and women have been at the centre of every protest, the youth in itself is a problematic idea.
Manu Sharma could very well have been one of the protagonists in the movie partying, drinking and driving at India Gate, the venue of so many protests, in the middle of the night.
It is far more complicated than just projecting any group as the upholder of moral ideas.