international day for the elimination of violence against women

International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women: 6 must-watch movies

Cinema has a smart way of teaching humans about difficult subjects. It has the power to depict adversity and evoke the right reaction as well as action from its audience through effective story telling.
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As a child, I was enthralled by the Sridevi starrer Bollywood hit ChaalBaaz. A story about twins separated after birth, I loved everything about it; the spunky twin Manju who was wild, brave and carefree stole the show with her antics and courage. On the other hand, broken from years of violence by her relatives, the frightened twin Anju saddened me. Even though I was still too young to understand, I had recognized the wrong that was being done to Anju as she was dragged by her hair by her uncle or thrown off the stairs. And it made me angry. Years later, with education and an awareness of my surroundings as an adult, I understand the concept of abuse, how it affects women in our world and how it perpetrates all strata of society.

The United Nations has designated November 25th as International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, confirming a hard truth. Violence against women is not just something that happens to others in a faraway land, it is prevalent and can happen to any woman across race, culture and strata.

Certainly, topics like the elimination of violence against women need one to dive deep into studies and cases to be understood, but cinema has a smart way of teaching humans about difficult subjects. It has the power to depict adversity and evoke the right reaction as well as action from its audience through effective story telling.

On an important day like this, Soulveda recommends you watch these films to understand the impact violence against women has on individuals, families and society, and why one must learn to stand against it.

Thappad (2020)

The premise of the movie Thappad is so simple that you might wonder how there are no other movies in Indian cinema on such a pertinent subject. In this case however, the filmmakers have chosen the issue of overlooked abuse and made it shine on the silver screen.

Thappad captures the story of Amu, a newly married young woman who is in love with her husband and new home. She spends her day taking care of the family, cooking, cleaning, picking up after her husband…all of which is largely unnoticed. Nothing changes until one night, her husband slaps her in a room full of people.

Domestic violence is rampant and an open secret in many households. Unfortunately, it is so normalized that no one really talks about it. Thappad shows how a slap signifies something more than just hitting someone; it is an insult to the dignity of an individual, in this case a woman, and exposes the lack of respect for a spouse. A must watch for everyone, who wants to know and understand why something as sudden or apparently as small as a slap has no place in a healthy marital relationship.

Mirch Masala (1987)

Bollywood is known to churn out what is known as masala movies. But no film quite defines spice (read defiance) like this Smita Patil and Nasseruddin Shah starrer. Mirch Masala directed by Ketan Mehta is a crowning glory in films with a social message pertaining to elimination of violence against women. The award-winning film is set in colonial India with a villainous subedar extracting more than just taxes. He preys on the women of the villages he visits and has no scruples in demanding unkind favours.

The film truly begins when Sonbai, the character played by the versatile Smita Patil, rises in rebellion by refusing to give in to the demands of the notorious subedar flawlessly played by Nasseruddin Shah. While most of the village men cower in the fear of a government authority, an old gatekeeper shows what it is to be truly human. He protects the women and sacrifices himself, but doesn’t bend to the vicious predator. The women of Mirch Masala end the violence in a chilling manner, a must watch for movie buffs who love great climaxes.

This Bollywood classic shows how only one person taking a stand is enough at times. It inspires us to not stay silent when we see violence being committed in our environment. Raising a voice or lending help, no matter how small, always makes a difference.

Provoked (2006)

Movies often tell the tales of real life. Understanding violence targeted at women through cinema to participate in its elimination is the need of the hour. The film Provoked directed by Jag Mundhra is based on the real life story of an NRI woman who was imprisoned for killing her own husband. The sad tale of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, played perfectly by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, begins when she gets married and settles with her husband in London only to be abused for a decade. Kiranjit unintentionally causes his death and is jailed for the murder.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is the result of strong men and women fighting oppression like the one depicted in this film.

Lajja (2001)

According to the UN, one in three women have faced domestic violence in their lifetime and this number rises during crisis or a disaster with two in three women reporting that they or someone they know experienced violence of some kind. In fact, a violence-free future is truly possible only when both genders participate in creating awareness and fighting this wrong that effects millions.

Veteran Indian filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi’s Lajja is a great example of how women rise up to the challenge of saving not just themselves but other women from violence too.

Lajja’s story revolves around Manisha Koirala’s character Vaidehi, a pregnant woman trying to escape an abusive marriage. On the way, she finds support from several women, all oppressed and fighting a hard battle of their own. The multi-starrer also has Rekha, Madhuri Dixit and Mahima Chaudhary, some of the brightest actors of Bollywood giving this pertinent issue a voice. Anil Kapoor plays a pivotal role as the only male trying to liberate these abused women, who come from all sections of modern society.

Daman (2001)

A great watch for the important day of calling for the elimination of violence against women is the Kalpana Lajmi directed Daman. A hard-hitting story highlighting the repressive and conservative social norms unleashed on women and a reality for far too many women in the world, Daman has Raveena Tandon playing the role of Durga, a woman, who faces violence and marital abuse. Tandon even won a national award for her powerful acting in this film.

While the film shows the abuse by the violent husband in raw, painful-to-watch frames, yet it is powerful cinema like this that make complex conversations like eliminating violence against women possible.

Agni Sakshi (1996)

Domestic violence can come in many forms. The 90s superhit Agni Sakshi takes a deep dive into this subject. The film has veteran actor Nana Patekar play the role of a psychopathic husband, who makes life miserable for his timid wife played by Manisha Koirala. The movie has all the trappings of a masala Bollywood story, but when one compares it to the reality it is inspired from, there is little to be happy about. The violence caused by Patekar’s character is so extreme that his wife Shubhangi chooses to fake her own death in a last bid to survive.

This Bollywood film is a must watch to understand the extent of violence some women endure before they finally find the courage to save themselves.

Art imitates life and all these films go far and beyond to drive home the message of solidarity towards women while also creating awareness about what we all, men and women, can do to create a more supportive and protective environment for women.

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