‘Enacting rape on screen can be very taxing’

Actors say emoting the trauma of a sexual assault victim is very tough.Though such scenes are shot subtly, they make one realise what a real victim must have gone through. Even penning down an abduction/assault scene can be distressing, feel scriptwriters.

lucknow Updated: Mar 21, 2018 12:36 IST
S Farah Rizvi
S Farah Rizvi
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Rape,On screen,Victim shaming
A still from the serial Kya Qusoor Hai Amala Ka?(HT)

Indian films and TV have always been vocal about bringing the heinous crime of sexual assault on women to the fore. A number of films, soaps and campaigns against ‘victim shaming’ have been urging families, authorities and citizens to reflect on the need to change the way victims of sexual assault are treated. Many scriptwriters, directors and actors have done their bit in bringing such characters and their stories to the audience for years now. However, it has never been easy for the creative clan to emote all that they feel about the subject, as reaching out to the victims as well as the guilty and then understanding their psyche is no doubt a daunting task.


Script writer and director Rahil Qaazi says, “The biggest challenge for any film or television script related to crime against women is to present its content in such an impactful way that it serves the purpose without making it sensational. Being a writer and director, it gets more difficult because we have never been in this kind of situation. So we work hard to assume what must be the psyche of the victim or the culprit . For my last show ‘Ghulaam’, I had to pen down an act of abduction and assault and it took a toll on me that entire week. It made me distressed: what kind of a world we live in where women are mere objects of hollow family honour and anyone can crush them to demean someone related to them .”

Author of Ten Days, Leena Nandan who happens to be an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, feels that it is difficult for creative people to do justice in portraying an honest account of events and also be considerate towards the real psyche of both the victim as well as the offender. “When I was conceptualising my novel, I knew that penning down the real mind of not just the victim but also those who are associated with her will be an overwhelming task but I took a chance and the effect left me appalled and aghast. I was unable to comprehend what that young girl who in reality was abducted by her cab driver while on her way home from work was not only raped and assaulted but was left to die on the roadside. It left my conscious bruised when I tried to pen it down. Imagine what those girls go through when they face such crimes and then are forced to relive that nightmare every day before police, lawyers and the court. So ultimately the victim blames herself for the crime she was subjected to and that hits her more than anything.”


Pankhuri Awasthy Rhode, who played Amla, a gang rape survivor for the finite show ‘Kya Qusoor Hai Amla Ka’ that was an official remake of the Turkish hit, Fatmagul, says she was a little shaky every time she enacted the character. “When I took up the show I didn’t know that the impact would be so hard on me. I actually fought to regain my real self. Before the show, I too was like others who read something like this and the concern is temporary. Later, we all move on with our lives. But it was not so when I shot for the show. Though the scenes were shot in a subtle manner, we all knew what the reality must have been for the victim. As an actor it was so grave for me, I felt I would choke with emotions at a point of time. For any actor to emote trauma is difficult but still we do it. Be it a hospital or a death scene, we enact it all but trust me, playing a rape victim and emoting her psyche that is completely shaken, her personality all uprooted, is hard. Suddenly she becomes the centre of discussion and pity for all. This is something very wrong on our part because we take away that normalcy from her life.”

Pankhuri later got associated with an organisation working for rape victims. “I remember it was during my shoot that I called up this NGO that works with rape victims and got associated with them in my special way. Many girls that I met there were spirited and wanted to get back to normal life but the society made it difficult for them. Why do we need to shame them and look down upon them at any given point of time? Why can’t we just let them live and punish the perpetrator?”

Another actor Niti Taylor remembers the day she shot for a scene where she gets kidnapped and is assaulted. She cried in real as that trauma was difficult for her to bear. “Oh! I can’t explain. Imagine just enacting that character hurt me so much. Then what it must be like for women who face all this in real? When my director told me that I had to emote the real emotions I had no idea that I would cry in real. It was a heart wrenching scene where this girl is abducted to get her forcefully married to a rich brat and is beaten and assaulted when she refuses to do so.”


Film and TV actor Gaurav Chopra, who has been associated with a crime based show as an anchor feels crime is crime, be it against anyone. Also rapists have this mindset that they can get away with anything in this country. Women might fight back but many of them give it up due to lack of stringent laws and because of so many hurdles. So these rapists, harassers and even murderers, easily get away with anything.

Talking about the misconceptions attached to crime against women he says, “One of the biggest misconceptions around rape is the ‘other-ing’ of both the criminal and the victim — that a ‘certain’ type of man rapes and a ‘certain’ type of woman gets raped (often under ‘certain’ circumstances). The overwhelming complicity of perpetrators in familial positions of power, or those who are known to victims, is grossly understated. Therefore, sexual assault, most often than not, becomes an under reported crime not only because of the stigma attached to it and a broken justice system but also because of the additional barriers that a collusion of familial, social power structures, shame and dependency create.”

First Published: Mar 21, 2018 12:36 IST