Sensational is Not Sensitive

Published: 12th April 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th April 2015 11:32 PM   |  A+A-

Hypocrisy is the mainstay of civilisation. Without it, man cannot move forward, or else his consciousness will be stranded in the mudslide of evil and prejudice, which has many faces. Sometimes hypocrisy also manifests itself as political correctness—good intentions unappreciated by another culture, which it seeks to change in its own form. Such is the case of America and India’s Daughter, the BBC documentary on the December 16 Delhi Gang-rape. The ban comes up for review in the Delhi High Court on April 15. To see or not to see is not the question, but to be shown or not to be shown is the quandary.

Last month, as actress Meryl Streep lit candles at the premier of Leslee Udwin’s film in New York, another film on the gang-rape, Daughters of Mother India directed by another woman, Vibha Bakshi, won the National Award for the best film on social issues. The I&B ministry called it “explicitly and determinedly turning the spotlight on the burning issue of rape in the country and the brutal mentality that drives it”. Bakshi defines the difference between Udwin’s film and hers as one that sensitises audiences to crimes against women as opposed to the BBC documentary that sensationalises the issue.

Perhaps sensationalism is the cliché that rules showbiz. The West, particularly America, has always used sensational techniques to glorify itself as well as shock people through art and cinema—from American Sniper to Madonna’s topless protest against Instagram. India’s Daughter obviously can’t be a chick flick even if Hollywood tried. At home, however, no Bollywood film will sell sans masala and sensationalism—not even part-nouveau films like Aamir Khan’s PK or Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider. Both got a liberal dose of Right wing rage, with saffron outfits calling for bans. Now that the BJP government is ruling at the Centre, it is a sitting duck for socially correct dung missiles, because the radical right is supposed to be against sex and women’s liberation.

Sensational.jpgLast week, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman living in her parent’s house, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for having an illegal abortion, induced by pills bought on the Internet.  In another case, a woman gave birth to twins, of which one was stillborn. She was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, because she had delayed a cesarean operation cited as the cause of the stillbirth. Meanwhile, a court ordered a seriously ill pregnant woman to go in for a cesarean, disregarding her pleas. Both mother and child died. A woman was jailed to prevent her from having an abortion. A mother was detained for not performing a diabetes test during pregnancy. A woman who miscarried spent a year in jail for murder. Even more absurd was the case of a woman who wanted the services of a midwife, which her doctor objected to, and the court took the foetus under protective custody. She was arrested. The most notorious case for abortion rights was in 2011, when a woman was arrested and imprisoned for 435 days for murder because she had tried to kill herself while pregnant.

Pakistan? Afghanistan? Syria? Kurdistan? Saudi Arabia? India? Nah. All this happened in the citadel of freedom and equality, the United States of America. The first case mentioned here was in Indiana, the next in Utah, the third in Washington DC, then Ohio, followed by Oregon and Louisiana.

As a society gets wealthier, science moves from e=mc2 to entertainment. Art becomes auction fodder and fashion becomes a necessity than a luxury. This gives rise to a class of lazy liberals who are sanitised by their privileged positions. Away from their ozone-friendly, gated existence is a world full of savagery and ancient prejudices, even in modern Western societies. A cultural

safari into these regions on which the lights don’t shine will either turn them into champions of self-defence or true sensitisers against discrimination. ravi@newindianexpress.com

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