Wednesday, March 18, 2015

NDTV : Suzette Jordan was made a victim all her life, though she was a survivor...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

India Killed Suzette

I met Suzette Katrina Jordon around a year back at the Think Conference. (Ironically), in a panel on rape. She was scared and petrified, she had spoken on TV, but had never faced such a large and highprofile audience, she said. I went up to her to comfort her. I instantly told her I am gay so she can hug me. She laughed and said she is scared. I replied "kaiko darti hai baba, tu bhi rape victim main bhi rape victim, audience mein bhi rape victims hai.. " She was shocked and she laughed at my ice-breaker. The very day, Suzette Jordan bonded with my friends Anuja, Ranadeep and Yudhajit. We got along like a house on fire. She and I shared our stories of rape. Pain united us, as we laughed over the abuse in our lives, a cruel black humour, it was, when we were narrating the joke in our country - Rape and Child Sexual Abuse.

But we were not defeated by it, we were united by it. We refused to let our past affect us in any way. We didn't turn anti-men. We went on a hunt. She had the resilience no one could match. Later in the day, we made jokes on all the men at the conference like two gossiping college boys. We ogled, not leched, at them together, and had our bets on who was gay and who was bi and who was worth a try.

After we left the conference, we kept in touch over the phone. When the infamous Tehelka rape case happened. We both reached out to the affected person. Suzette called me and told me "this is what is going to happen next with her", "she is going to be shamed"... She had her horrors of rape visiting her with every story of rape. The nirbhaya rape case got her out of the closet - she famously said "I AM NOT THE PARK STREET RAPE VICTIM. I AM SUZETTE JORDAN". She was reminded again at Tehelka, and followed up with me, asking me to follow up with the ex-tehelka complainant, as she was too overwhelmed with emotions every time when she spoke to her.

Suzette loved her daughters. She wanted to get them introduced to me and have a house on fire. When she was here for shooting for the Satyamev Jayate episode, we had a chance to meet. But we couldn't as she was here for a very short while. Satyamev Jayate is hush-hush in its recordings.But i was pre-informed about her visits, because the world knew that we were like love-birds separated by a few seas. I missed a chance to meet her, and she cursed me for that.
In the meantime, we had more tragedies. While she put up a real brave front, I used to tell her that she could let herself loose and cry. I used to call her and joke and laugh. Laugh until she started crying about her psychological unrest. There were secrets that only I knew. I have no qualms in letting them out now. Suzette was really upset about the fact that she was treated like an accused in the rape case. Mamata Banerjee, called her the enemy of the state. She accused her of lying about her rape to tarnish the image of the Trinamool Congress government. She was called a hooker whose client had harsh sex with her. If all of this was not enough, she was treated with absolute contempt inside the court. She told me that the "FEMALE" judge behaved with her very rudely with absolute lack of empathy. Her court case appearances were unending. She was asked to narrate her incidence again and again as the defense looked for discrepancies in her then and now statements. She was determined to fight it out even if it meant that she would be shot dead or raped again. She was a fighter. But people took her strength for granted. People forgot that she was human and she had the right to cry. She didnt want to be brave all the time. She didnt want to be the inspiration all the time. She was a normal person. She wanted to be seen as a normal average joe though she had the worst humiliations to face. One incident that affected her so badly, was when her undergarments that she was wearing when she was raped were paraded openly. The defense lawyer held it with a stick... and asked her if it was her undergarments .. and was she wearing this on that day when she was "allegedly" raped. She told me that she broke down in court and pleaded to the judge asking her to intervene. The judge, one of her own gender, did not.

This one incident was one of the most devastating ones in Suzette's life. She described it as "I WAS GANG RAPED. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN IN COURT". She wanted to hold me and cry. I would coyly get her to laugh at her tragedy everytime we spoke. Once when she was too upset with the defense lawyer, i asked her "Was the Lawyer HOT". And she started giving me horrible hindi abuses in jest. We both addressed each other by the tragedy - "Hello Can I Speak To Rape Victim" is how we would begin our conversations and laugh before we cried.

She was not raped by some gang of perverted men. She was raped by the people of this country. She was raped by the law process of our country. She was raped by each one of you who doubted her story. Some time back, she was denied entry into a restaurant called @Ginger, in KOLKATA because *She was a rape victim*. There was an outrage on twitter and FB when she spoke up. But actually, the restaurant staff was only holding a mirror to the attitude of people in our country. For us rape is a cause, and rape victim is a story. Rape is something that happens to the person on TV, or someone you read on the news, Rape doesn't happen in our homes. We live in a world of denial. Suzette died today at 3 AM. Correction : India murdered Suzette with their mindset and attitude towards women and survivors of rape.

She died of meningitis. We all know that once depression bites you, you become a reservoir of diseases. In the end, she listened to me. I used to tell her "it is okay to go weak sometimes. It is okay to give up fighting and love yourself just as yourself. It is okay to just "Be"". She allowed herself to be. She stopped breathing. Her heart stopped beating. She passed away.

if she was really empowered. If people didnt judge her. If the lawyers didnt ill-treat her in court, if the female judge was sensitive to a person similar to her own anatomy, if the restaurant didnt throw her out, if people didnt judge her. She would have survived. or for that matter, died happily.

India Killed Suzette. You killed her.

Things have to change. I demand judicial reforms. No woman should be humiliated like Suzette was in court. NO ONE.


Monday, March 02, 2015

Dum Laga Ke Haisha : An Ode To Women

I am just back home after watching a Dum Lagaa Ke Haishaa. And boy! How disappointed I am! I mean how can such a film not have a budget for promotions. Does Yash Raj Films only promote films that have the Rani of their house in it? If there is a film that’s truly a feather in the cap of Yash Raj Films, it is THIS ONE. I mean, Dum Lagaa Ke Haishaa.

The film is an ode to women in our country.  The story in short - The film is set in the Varanasi of the 90s. Prem Prakash Tewari  is a tenth fail who is forced to marry a fat woman – Sandhya Verma. The woman is a graduate, his family lies about Ayushman’s qualification, to match her. They get unhappily married, and they are doomed to a life of being unhappily married forever. Sandhya but discovers that Prem has been forced to marry her when she catches him red handed in an angry rant to his friends about how his wife is as fat as a buffalo. She leaves him, but not before slapping him and getting slapped at that very moment.  What follows is a series of dramatic turns that I want you to watch and experience for yourself.

A film has a soul of its own. This film has a soul and a heart and a mind of its own.  The Hindi film industry is not known to be respectful towards women. She is either a devi or the devil, never the average Joanna you meet everyday. This film does just the opposite. It  gives you a peek into the life of an average looking plump woman who is at complete ease with how she looks. She agrees to an arranged marriage, but holds the reigns of it in her able hands. Even the groom gets married to her with no dowry, in awe with her qualifications as she could financially uplift the  family  in crisis. While widespread misogyny is captured in the terms of expectations from a woman, the film also captures the fact that a woman could be empowered with education to take a stand. A woman can be in complete ease of her body and doesn’t have to turn to size zero for her hubby dearest.  Sandhya, the character, also reserves her right to sexual desires, and is in control of what she expects from life. She battles misogynistic mindsets from the women in her maternal home and sasural ably. She doesn’t mind telling her father-in-law that he did no right by getting his son forcefully married to her.  She doesn’t mind reclaiming her room from her younger brother, when she returns home, determined to divorce her husband. She is in control throughout. She does feel bad, she does express that she feels insulted, but she doesn’t resign to a life of self-pity ever, she rather does the opposite. She reclaims her life and takes her freedom.

The film is set in 90s, but is relevant even for this era. Given this, why the director chose the 90s as a theme to set the film in is not apparent in the film, but nevertheless, it is one of the most enjoyable things. Production wise,  A lot of effort has been put in to set every frame in the 90s. The film also has the male protagonist named Prem which was the most popular name then, thanks to Salman Khan and Sooraj Bharjatya. I wonder why there has been no opposition from Right Wing Groups, considering that this film shows  Half Chaddi Boys of RSS in a not so very flattering way.
After Queen that released last year, this film marks the beginning of roles that are Women Empowering and that too without giving us any gyan on Nari Shakti and stuff.

Watch this film and you will agree with me that Bhumi Pednekar deserves every award. Ayushman is kiss-worthy.  Sheeba, as the nasty Bua is another star worthy of every award.   This film may not have ‘london thumakda” moments, like in Queen. But makes a strong case for valuing self worth just as Queen does.  Though no one can match a kangana doing a  Rani in Queen, Bhumi takes the character of Sandhya to heights of brilliance. This is the kind of performance that could easily make a classroom study for young  actors who wish to learn about the nuances of acting.  She is too good.

Lastly, this is one movie where you will wait till the credits finally roll.  Why? Watch the film and find out. Believe me, it is worth your money.  This is the kind of film that should be released on 08 March. This is a piece of art, a mark of brilliance.


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