The Breakthrough Voice 4th January, 2019

Amar Film Review – Cinema’s Portrayal Of Sexual Assault Hasn’t Changed Much.

Hindi cinema’s pioneer film director and producer, Mehboob Khan, has made classics like Mother India, Aan and Andaz, which have immortalized Khan’s name in the history of Indian cinema. But he has one film to his name that  Indian audiences would wish wasn’t credited to him. The film is Amar (1954), starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Nimmi. One might wonder how bad a film can be, one that stars Hindi cinema’s favourite on-screen couple, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, that the audience outright rejected it.

The movie revolves around guilt-stricken, repentant barrister Amar – the eponymous hero. Amar is a ‘love’ triangle that revolves around a high society couple, Madhu and Amar, and a village girl named Sonia. Amar and Madhu are engaged to be married, but one night, as Sonia seeks refuge in Amar’s house while hiding from bandits, Amar rapes her.

Both women characters have been presented as the epitome of selflessness and sacrifice.

The narrative of the movie attempts to force the audience to sympathize with a man who rapes a village girl but is remorseful about it. Throughout the film, Amar broods and complains about how guilty he feels and tries to justify it, calling her his barbaadi. It is interesting to note that here, a man who rapes an innocent girl does not feel guilty for his abhorrent act nor does he realise the magnitude of the crime he committed. Instead, he calls Sonia the cause of his destruction.

All this while, Sonia (played by Nimmi) doesn’t complain about it to anyone and pledges to be loyal to him even when he tries to kill her to reduce the burden of his repentance. She, in fact, sympathizes with him and makes him the center of her universe. At the end of the movie, Sonia and Amar are united by Amar’s ex-fiancé and Amar faces neither any legal consequence nor the wrath of the public. The same public who were initially ready to burn down Sonia’s house for bringing them disgrace. Amar’s act, however, was apparently not disgraceful enough for punishment.

It is interesting to note the portrayal of both women characters who have been presented as the epitome of selflessness and sacrifice. Heroines were always represented as chaste, submissive, modest and self-sacrificing and were stereotyped as either the virtuous all-giving mother or the long-suffering wife or lover. In this film, one character sacrifices her love while the other is ready to sacrifice her life. Both sacrifices are performed in order to save the ‘virtue’ of the man they love.

Female sexuality and autonomy is the one topic Hindi cinema has always been averse to.

Even today, 65 years after the release of the film, nothing much has changed in Indian cinema especially when it comes to dealing with the topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Victim/survivors are either asked to marry their rapists, for instance, in Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (1996) or forgive them – or else the world would think that they’re too ‘proud’ like in Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani (2002).

A lot of Hindi films have shown victims who would kill themselves in order to save their families from disgrace, and other characters would feel that this was the best thing to do. Female sexuality and autonomy is the one topic Hindi cinema has always been averse to. If a woman ever transgressed outside the realm of ‘virtue and honour’, she will have to get punished either by the law set by her family and husband or by death.

Also Read: Morals, Manu And Modesty: Film Review Of Andaz (1949)

Featured Image used for representational purpose only. Image source: YouTube

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