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Tod M. Kelly

Thank you for a very clear and precise answer to my question of the prolific rape in Hindi Cinema. I find it very disturbing and am now more understanding of it's use. Sad though.


But i didnt mean to say that dress is the only reason..I just meant it could be one of the reasons as well...noone can deny it..


@pallavi..I guess you missed my point...A vulnerable situation can be from many factors ..I agree to you in Australia it was happening in outskirts..and we were targeted because we used to travel alone at night in these almost empty suburban areas ..comming back from work or so...But i bet you on this that if there is a native and an indian sitting at the same place at the same time ..i would say there is 80% chance that the attacker will target us than the native..because he may think we are more prone ..we look smaller in size ..or may be also that he thinks he can get away easily...And you cant deny that in the same way, a person with instinct for sexual crimes will have a taste for sexual crime ..something that ignite his sexual desire it could well be the way you dress..obviously in sexual crimes physical attraction plays a role...no psychologist can deny this but if you still wish to argue you can..


Great Post, I enjoyed reading this. We could accuse Insaf ka tarazu for a lot of things but i think it was a film that tried to highlight this issue plus a femina article which you'll find at the bottom of the link below affirnms that some of these rape based films as tacky as we might think them to be were telling it like it is, i'd recommend that article strongly




I agree with your arguments; I was just unsure as to whether your post was linked with the Slutwalk movement or if it was a critique of it.


Your Australian student violence argument is as flawed as your perception about women dressing a certain way. I lived in Melbourne and was working with international students through the whole 'racist' attacks period, and even that policeman in Melbourne became the subject of much mockery for what he said. It had nothing to do with carrying cell phones and laptops - every businessman in public transport looks well-to-do with gadgets yet they were never attacked.

The Melbourne incidents were a build-up of crime in lower socio-economic suburbs. No Indian media outlet reported that Chinese/Viet/Thai students were equally victims of crime. It had a minor relation to race, but the major issue was law and order in the poorer suburbs. In the US, these usually house African-American and Hispanic families (higher crime rates there as well) and in Melbourne it happens to be international students living in the cheapest (and most crime-ridden) part of the city, and the vulnerability of poorer people to crime is historically proven - it is the focus of many sociology studies.

Ironically, Indian female students were rarely targets of the 'racist' attacks because fewer female students would choose to live in these suburbs, preferring dorms and hostels for accommodation.

Again, how you dress has nothing to do with rape, just as how much money you have has little to do with your vulnerability to being mugged.

Deepa Deosthalee

@Pallavi, the premise of my article is the Slutwalk movement which started as a reaction to the policeman's contention that women leave themselves open to rape because of the way they dress. My article tries to argue that being raped has nothing to do with dress, demeanour, looks, class or caste. It's a manifestation of a physically stronger man's power to violate and humiliate a woman and society's perverse logic of putting the victim in the dock. The word 'slut' is drawn from the movement. I don't believe there as a category of women called 'sluts' in the conventional understanding of the word!

@Dinesh, your argument is contentious. Rape has nothing to do with dress, and that's the primary argument of my article. When Radha visits Sukhilala in Mother India, she is dishevelled, covered with mud from head to toe and totally helpless. She isn't there to provoke him to violate her. She's begging for help because her kids are starving. In Ghar, when Aarti is abducted, she's very respectably dressed in a saree and isn't doing anything to invite attention. In Damini, the maid is raped because she's of a class that's unable to defend itself. In Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Geeta is raped because she dares to take on the authority of the corrupt policeman. The point is, rape is used as a weapon for exerting power and authority on women. Which is why, often, rapes have nothing to do with the woman's appearance and everything to do with the man's own weakness. That our society doesn't put the issue in the right perspective, compounds women's problems. Asking the woman to act with restrain (in the way she carries and presents herself) is completely obfuscating the real issue.


Something funny with the comment posting - so read as one post after the other below. Also, apologies for any formatting errors.

My brother studied engineering and I was distressed when I realised 'rape' - to those in the college phase - has become some sort of colloquial equivalent to abuse or trauma of a minor kind, such as:

"I got raped in my practicals, man!"

This is the worrying aspect of the 3 Idiots effect. I can laugh at the scene in the film, if it didn't really extend beyond the cinema screen, but rape as a colloquialism is extremely unnerving.

1) Because in 3 Idiots, the possibility that a respected, highly educated man in a high post is capable of rape is made laughable and implausible when it should be the opposite - Dominic Strauss-Kahn anyone? Of course boys laugh at it, because students struggling to pass, killing themselves in the attempt to do so in the name of education somehow equals the unfairness of rape to their point of view.

And no one thinks that rape is not just unfair or traumatic, but that it is a crime of violence. When a student kills himself because the pressure is unendurable, Rancho does not hesitate in calling the head of the Institute a 'murderer'. And that is a serious, impacting moment. Contrast that with the speech saying he is a rapist and that is a joke. Neither is true in legal terms - Sahasrabuddhe has not murdered the student any more than he has raped other students, but one is worthy of seriousness while the other isn't.


2) Because rape has become a conversation about the victim, something that both the film and the slang have endorsed. The speech is all the more funny because it is true in a way - the students are victims of an abusive system, and the speech is more about THEM than it is about the Minister and the director. Similarly, in public life, nobody talks of rape as a crime, as violence - perpetrated by a criminal. It is as if the victim's suffering is of primary importance, even more so than the criminal's offence.
The above colloquialism for instance - about being metaphorically 'raped' by some figure of authority - does not leave room for the question "Raped by whom?" or "Why were you raped?" This linguistic bias to the verb and its object (and not the subject) makes rape conversation pointless. When we say "The policeman raped Phoolandevi", what ends up becoming conversation is "Phoolandevi was raped". I think this is where Arundhati Roy's piece is brilliant because she pinpoints the pseudo-empowerment at the heart of Bollywood - rape is always about the victim and rarely about the criminal. We are never given any insight into his motivations apart from a leer and some stalking. And studies clearly state rape is not about sex, so much as it is about power.
In my view, this is why Bollywood and much of Indian pop culture has failed to address rape adequately - we are still a society obsessed with rape victims, and not with the rapists. We need to see him (or her, which does on occasion happen) as a criminal using violence to assert dominance/power, not merely as a lustful man. Maybe then, we can even miraculously move on to the next stage and discuss rape as a serious crime meriting serious punishment.


Also, I think apart from 'Insaaf ka Tarazu', none of the other women in your study really fit the conventional definitions of the word 'slut', do they? Nor are they raped because of the way they look. Well, maybe in 'Ghar', her sexuality is connected to the rape, but not the others so much, I feel.

Dinoop Ravindran Menon

Again coming back to the movies point of view i agree to all you said except for 3 idiots. The word balathkar was used there only for the comedy part, its quiet unnecessary to take things always literally. For instance Murder is arguably a more horrible crime than rape and in movies sentences like " mein tujhe maar doonga "have been used tons of time in comical perspectives..it doesn't mean that the audience who are sitting and laughing watching the scenes are thinking about a murder and laughing about it...this perception is quite wrong. I understand the authors frustration but i feel many of our young and talented writers have to come down to a realistic perceptive while writing an article, than being in the cloud and talking about what is absolute, because humans are never absolute and never will be.

Dinoop Ravindran Menon

I feel the article is imposing an absolute idea here.I will come back to Indian cinemas later but first of all I would like to discuss this concept "If she can be exploited, she will be, because the perversion lies not in her body or appearance, but in the eyes of the beholder" I agree, some men are quite fanatics and there are people with criminal mentality who are always looking for a chance.So lets talk a bit on the psychology behind a criminal mind what intimidates a criminal to do the crime. there are many factors, for eg : if its a thief he will try to rob a house which attracts him in terms of its wealth..or a house where he thinks its easy to break in... the same applies to a rapist..I am not against women having their freedom to dress as they like..but when you dress in a bit exposing way ( which i personally dont think is morally wrong) you are trying to grab some attention, so by that you are also attracting attention from the criminals or the rapist..so you are making yourself more vulnerable than others..and sometimes these criminals are also lunatics..so your physical appearance may intimidate them further..This doesent apply just to women ..The best eg: is the case what happened in Australia when Indians were targeted. So police was advising Indians including my friends there not to carry valuables with you like iphones and try to avoid traveling alone at night..So in any situation whoever is vulnerable to the crime should take more precautions..as long as such lunatics persist in the society..but i never meant that its the women's fault.. All i am telling is they have to be cautious to remain safe..

Deepa Deosthalee

To answer ittabari, nowhere in my article have i suggested that rape isn't a ghastly form of violation. However, what also accompanies the physical trauma is the social stigma which, unfortunately falls on the woman, rather than the perpetrator. Any kind of violation is difficult to recover from. But it certainly needn't be the end of the victim's world.

I understand that there is a great deal of torture that's inflicted on students in various academic institutions. It's no different from rape. But where in '3 Idiots' does the filmmaker suggest that what these students are doing to Chatur is wrong?? He isn't castigating them for victimising the kid, instead, he's laughing with them (and at him) all the way till the end of the film. Does anyone in the audience ever empathise with Chatur's plight? If the filmmaker managed get us to do that, then the scene would actually mean something different.


i disagree with your thesis that the use of the word balatkaar in Three Idiots devalues the trauma of female rape. you praise two other films for showing that rape should not be stigmatized and women should be able to recover from its indignity and lead normal lives. in that sense, rape is not some super category of violation that is incomparable to other human experiences, even male ones. i feel that the psychological abuse that students undergo in patriarchal institutions such as IIT border on sexual humiliation (they live in hostels and their bodies are controlled by the faculty; where they go and what they eat, dress, etc). i therefore feel balaatkar is an apt metaphor for the kind of abuse that students suffer in india's residential premier institutions of higher learning. sometimes the scars can be permanent.

Account Deleted

Just to respond to Dr Dang (also responded on firstpost), sometimes in India we are quite oblivious to the power some words have, and the ability to hurt that they sometimes carry. I think the word 'balatkaar' shouldn't be so light-heartedly used as in this scene in 3 Idiots, which anyway (because of being the biggest 'hit' ever) reaches such a large audience. Amongst friends, we say all kinds of things and that's ok because you know who you're addressing. Even in a film like, Jab We Met, where they use the term 'khuli hui tijori' and 'rape' and someone being considered a whore in Hotel Decent etc - which are all really funny scenes. But these things are far more threatening in real life and the film makes light of it (because of the same mindset that chalta hai, we don't mean any harm etc). It's a spoof and a joke but it is also uncomfortably close to a kind of ugly reality in a India where a woman gets raped every 26 minutes according to some statistics...


@Deepa I still think that the humour is derived from the insertion of the word into formal speech, not the idea or the action that it represents; but maybe it's because I believe that nothing is sacred in comedy. However, I understand that the word has serious connotations that can conjure up the feelings you talk about. Since you look at it from a female perspective which try as I might I cannot, I can see why it might upset you.

Deepa Deosthalee

Thanks for all the feedback. @DrDang, I don't agree with your assessment of the '3 Idiots' scene. It's a manifestation of the casualness with which our cinema perceives a serious issue such as rape. It is the same flippancy with which heroes routinely eve-tease and manhandle the women they purportedly love on screen. But ask a girl/woman who has been teased, pinched, leered at (in India, it's impossible to grow up without experiencing one or all of these) and she'll tell you how horrible it feels. Rape then, is so much worse... If the filmmaker had used the scene to chastise these boys for their stupidity, it would still be ok. But he's participating in the ridiculing of Chatur -- and frankly, that's not important to me. He could have done it any other way, without employing such crude humour -- just look at the glee and smugness on Aamir Khan's face to know how little he (a Padma Bhushan winning star of supposedly high ethics) and Raju Hirani, (a highly respected filmmaker), care about the implications of talking of rape so casually. If either of them knew what it was like to have their body violated, they'd perhaps think differently. Rape is not the same thing as toilet humour.


This is a very well written article and there aren't enough on this serious issue. Our art is a mirror of our society and it is very depressing what this says about our society. The examples mentioned are vile and unfortunately I can name atleast a dozen more. However I have to say that I feel that scene from 3 Idiots does not belong here, not that I have some great affection for that film. All other instances point to some horrible messages masquerading as righteousness, exposing something horrible about the psyche of the makers. The 3 Idiots scene is a joke that is funny because of the play on the words, not because a specific woman or some woman or anyone in general is getting raped. Nothing of that sort is present in the words. Yes, I laughed at it, because it's an instance of kids (ok, not exactly but bear with me) tricking someone to say something 'dirty' and it happens a lot in schools, colleges etc without any underlying horribleness. I honestly don't think anyone laughing at it would be thinking of it that way.

Eva, proud SlutWalker

Great article. It's really important that the issue of rape in popular culture is tackled, and I want to thank the author for speaking out.

Account Deleted

It's interesting that the 'serial rapist' has now been replaced by the 'serial kisser' (Emraan Hashmi and his ilk). The reason behind having a rape scene in those days and a gratitious sex scene in a contemporary film is the same. It was never to highlight outrage. Yes, these days it's dressed in more progressive garb, but that also underlines that not much has changed when it comes to the representation of women in our films.

Tanya Attarwala

The article is nicely written and an account has been given from time to time. Its true that Indian cinema had used "rape" to portray sex in their movies without thinking about the real consequences of doing so or bothering about the image of Women. For them money and more audience is only what matters.
No matter how a women is dressed up does not give anybody right to molest her or behave badly with her.
Why not men think the same way? Will a women behave badly with a man just because he is half naked or not properly?

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