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Flawed reportage

Why has the recently released documentary by Leslee Udwin stirred such a hornet’s nest? For one, India’s daughter, as it’s titled, is not revelatory. Viewers looking for nuance will be disappointed. By providing a mouthpiece to Mukesh Singh, the documentary has not only highlighted his incorrigible and unrepentant nature, it has also raised pertinent questions about media ethics in general. Critics of the documentary have pointed out that misogyny does not have colour, class, caste or nationality, and is not endemic to uneducated working class men who live in what the film calls a ‘semi-slum’.

The documentary would have done well to highlight the widespread nature of sexual violence irrespective of caste or class; instead it segues into profiling Nirbhaya’s parents in absence of access to all the rape accused. The film while attempting to eulogize the rape victim unfortunately ends up having the opposite effect. In airing the overwhelmingly regressive and patriarchal views of Mukesh Singh and his lawyer-AP Singh, the documentary inadvertently ends up condoning the heinous crime as a circumstantial accident committed under duress.

Not only does it fail to analyze the root causes of why the incident happened in the first place, it also brings forth a rather reductive and myopic view of the sociological impact of the events of that night. As an objective reportage it does fine, even if barely so. As such, the film does not reveal any new information, and in fact adds nothing to our understanding of why the incident happened in the first place. While the documentary aims to be an unflinching analysis of rape and rape culture, in this aim it falls short. But the decision to ban it just shows once again, that the people who rule India cannot face hard facts. So, see it, and share it.
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