This story must be told, says filmmaker who interviewed Dec 16 rapist

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 15:18 IST

For a person who made a documentary film on the December 2012 gang-rape in Delhi and subsequent nationwide protests as a "gift to India", it comes as a bit of a shock for Leslee Udwin to be accused of giving a platform to the convicted rapists.

Udwin's film "India's Daughter", to be aired on TV channels round the world on March 8, has been in the headlines in India since excerpts emerged of her interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the four men convicted of the brutal crime. Singh has said the victim was to blame for the fatal sexual assault on her in a moving bus.

But the 57-year-old producer, best known for BAFTA-winning 1999 hit comedy "East Is East", argues that the intention behind her interviews with the four rapists was to hold up a mirror to the problems of gender inequality and sexual violence against women in India and other countries.

"This is a very important film, it highlights very serious problems for women in this country and around the world," Udwin told a news conference in Delhi on Tuesday.

Her 16 hours of interviews with Singh at Delhi's Tihar Jail, she said, gave her "an insight into how he views women" and the larger societal problem of women being seen as "valueless".

"That is extremely shocking," she said. "The mentality and mindset that sees girls as valueless - which means that you can do what you want with them."

Singh and the other convicted rapists - Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur - showed absolutely no regret or remorse during their interviews with Udwin. Even the filmmaker's decision to read out a list of the 23-year-old victim's horrific injuries evoked no response from Singh, who claimed the media had blown up what he thought was a small matter, she said.

The filmmaker said she was "chilled to the bone" when Mukesh Singh claimed that executing him and the other rapists would endanger other rape victims.

Udwin, who came out at the news conference for the first time about being raped herself, said she spent "two years in hell" to make the film. But she insisted that the documentary presents a balanced view of the gang rape of the physiotherapy student and the factors that lead to men committing such shocking crimes.

"See the film, there is no sensationalism. It isn't about giving a platform to the rapists," she said.

Udwin and senior journalist Dibang, who played a key role in the making of the documentary, dismissed reports that they had filmed inside Tihar Jail without the requisite permissions.

Permissions were obtained from the administration of Tihar Jail and the Union home ministry and the rapists and their families had given written consent to be featured in the film, they said. Though Tihar Jail officials had initially wanted to view all the unedited raw footage, they later sought a shortened version that was provided to them, the filmmakers said.

"These were not clandestine interviews. Everyone in the prison knew," Dibang said.

Udwin said she was inspired to make the film after watching the widespread protests in India over the gang rape, which she compared to the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt. "I hope people will watch it and understand and change. There is no point in hiding the pain," she said.

And after "India's Daughter" is screened in New York at a star-studded event to mark International Women's Day on March 8, Udwin will launch a campaign with the same name the following day to address gender inequality and sexual violence against women. The campaign, supported by international organisations, will initially focus on 20 million school students and rural communities in India before branching out to other countries.

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