It actually started out like I would watch any other movie on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I read about it, the reviews, have checked out the trailer also. In fact was quite impressed by the trailer too. Then again, most often in India, trailers look far better than the movies, and so being impressed with a film trailer is neither here nor there.
In fact the movie title, also raised my curiosity, Mardaani?! What does that mean? Deriving from the word, mard, meaning a man in Hindi, mardaani loosely translated, would mean ‘like a man’, or as accepted colloquially, ‘a brave woman’. And yet to a large extent, I had my reservations. Most movies with an aggressive female as the protagonist cannot get out of the stereotypes, or the hullabaloo associated with commercial Hindi movie. Often these are the reasons that stopped me from watching such movies. I actually hate to see how a successful woman lands up being the doormat wife at home. But this movie doesn’t portray all that. The super aggressive and devil-may-care cop, Rani Mukherjee in the central character, didn’t come home to cook or clean for her family. But that was not the reason I was impressed, although in other time, it would have been good enough of a reason for me to like this character.
The movie deals with human trafficking, or child trafficking to be exact, and in a way that is cold and in-your-face. Some of the scenes made me cringe, as a human being, as a mom to a daughter. But those were the realities, and try as we might, they still remain realities for the children who have undergone that kind of hell. I have read about such incidents, and as a mom, I am also aware of these instances. But to see them on screen was a gut-wrenching roller-coaster ride I am least likely to forget for a long time to come. Sure the film had its loose moments, in fact plenty of them, actually, with the end being the silliest of them all. Sure the film sends wrong signals, sensationalizes issues, with the stars going all out and making quotable quotes for the movie promotions. Still, I feel it succeeds because of its story, and its attempt to portray the darkest side of our Indian society.
This is not the first time that a movie has been made on this topic, but most likely the first time a mainstream production house like YRF has decided to deal with something so harsh. We are a nation of contradictions. We protest for victims of violence and abuse if they are from the higher societies or from urban homes. But children from rural areas, and below poverty line families, their victimization is often just a number to us. We are strangely deaf to their pleadings, and their cries. Just like we move away from making an eye-contact to that child selling flowers at the busy intersection, thinking, we must not encourage begging. That’s how we escape taking responsibility, we escape thinking about it.
But this movie makes you think. If you are a parent to a girl child, this movie takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you face the hash reality. It made me wonder why we as a society is so impervious to all this? Why we never bother? What if, God forbid, it’s one of us on the other side? What will we do? Whom will we seek help from? If we as a society don’t care, who will care about our children?
So I have made up my mind. I am going to show this movie to my child. May not be now, as I am not sure how much she is ready to see such violence and make sense out of it. But definitely in a year or two, I am going to sit with her and make her watch this movie. It’s time that our girls look at reality and become aware and not live in a world trusting everybody in it. Mardaani, with all its faults, is certainly a wake-up call for parents.