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I was invited to the US premiere of India’s Daughter on March 9, 2015. The event was held at Baruch College in New York and I was so moved that I’m compelled to write this.
But before I went for the screening, there was news that the documentary has been banned in India. BBC decided to show it a week before the launch and then CBC screened it in Canada. In India NDTV who had agreed to screen the film before the ban, kept their screen dark for one hour to honor their commitment to the cause.
I was in conversation with a South Asian Professor in Canada two days before the US premiere of India’s Daughter and she said “how dare a white woman make assumptions about India which are all wrong.” Wrong? Since when was exposing a horrible, barbaric act of gang rape wrong?
This is how powerful India’s Daughter is and I went to the premiere with an open mind.
There was a candle-lighting ceremony lead by Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto (who is Associate Producer of the film) supported by Farhan Akhtar, Tina Brown, Tanya Barron (CEO, Plan UK), Arianna Huffington and many other well-known celebrities.
The biggest celebrity of course was Leslee Udwin, Director and Producer of India’s Daughter. She came on stage before the screening and explained why and how she spent two years in India, leaving her family behind to fend for themselves and supported by her teenage daughter, to make a film because she had been raped when she was younger.
While the film poignantly and respectfully keeps alive the memory of Jyoti Singh, the young girl who was brutally gang raped and eventually died, there was much more to absorb. The interviews with Jyoti’s parents brought everyone to tears because Jyoti was a budding medical student with a great future who would have eventually pulled her family out of poverty. The accolades about Jyoti from her friends and colleagues were heart-warming and tragic.
Interviews of the rapists had the audience mumbling in anger and frustration as we heard the rapists and the driver of the bus speak without remorse. More importantly the lawyer defending the rapists made misogynist statements about blaming girls for being out alone at night. The entire culture of blaming the victim was exposed along with the mindset that allows men to violate women with impunity.
One could see that it was not easy to make this film and the producer spoke about the challenges. In terms of why a ‘white woman’ would make a film, we need to thank her for taking on an issue that would easily have slipped under the carpet as just another act of violence against women. The footage of how thousands of women came out and protested, were heart rending but hopeful because this film has now broken the silence around issues of rape.
It stayed with me for days and nights because I am a woman and when I think of daughters, sisters, mothers, I weep for the lack of compassion for half the human race. We must always speak out.