Note: Trigger warning and Spoiler alert
Last Friday, a friend and I decided to go watch a movie. It had been long since the both of us had watched a movie in a theater. We decided this around 8:30 pm. We booked our tickets for a 9:30 pm show. The movie we had picked was “Mom”. I read the review on a mobile app. The impression that I got from the review was that it would be a movie about a mother and daughter relationship. Also, the movie was receiving good reviews. So we thought, why not and went ahead with it.
I was watching Sridevi on the big screen after ages. The first few minutes seemed promising. The first ten minutes of the movie gives you a sense of the central premise of the film. Devki (Sridevi) was Arya’s (Sajal Ali) stepmother. Arya had not accepted Devki.
Half an hour into the movie and my friend (a woman) and I were crouching on our seats, holding each other’s hands, refusing to look at the screen.
Suddenly the central premise of the film seemed to shift. Arya was gang raped in a car on Delhi roads. The way the movie depicted it (with a haunting music background), the deepest of our fears had been triggered.
We prayed for her to live.
We knew we were watching a movie. We were well aware of the realities that surround us as women living in a society where violence against women is an everyday. Yet, we did not want to watch what we were watching. Because all it seemed to do was aggravate the fears we already live with.
My friend kept repeating, “This is too intense. Why did we do this to ourselves?”.
As the movie progressed, we had a decision made for us. We were not going to go travel alone at night to our respective homes. We were not going to be alone on Delhi roads late at night. I was going to spend the night at my friend’s place, as opposed to our original plan of going to our respective houses.
We (my friend and I) travel alone in Delhi all the time. Be it during the day or night. It’s not that we are not aware of the ‘things’ that could happen to us. However, it is a decision to live a life experiencing freedom and fulfillment as opposed to fear. It’s us pushing back. It’s us claiming our space. It’s us claiming our right. It’s us trying to be bigger than our fears. It’s us choosing to know the city we live in for a sense of freedom and joy and not paranoia.
The movie had various parts. The part where a woman was gang raped. The part where the judicial system did not announce the men convicted to be guilty due to lack of evidence. The part where a mother seeks revenge for what had happened to her daughter. The part where violence does not cease, but the conscience is satiated with a sense of blood for blood.
Arya accepts Devki as her mother when she realizes what all Devki had done to seek revenge for her. The first premise of the movie comes back. But I was just left wondering, what after all was the premise of the movie. Because, when the movie ended, all I was left was a feeling of fear and exhaustion.
As a woman, I have imagined the scenario of being raped several times. I have also thought about what I would do. About how I would make sure, I don’t let them get away. About how I will not let the society to get the best of me. These are not the best of thoughts to have. But, yes they do come to my mind. And, mostly when I read a news story about yet another rape or watch a movie like this one.
I am not going to comment on the whole aspect of a mother taking the form of a goddess who is angry and avenging what happened to her daughter. That’s for another time, but definitely something we need to think about. All I want to write in this post is about how a movie left me feeling. I felt scared. Afraid. Weak. Vulnerable. Exhausted. That’s it.
And this makes me question the intent of the film. This is not just about the movie ‘Mom’. There are several other movies that do the same. On the outside, it seems like it is a movie about the reality that surrounds a woman’s life. Just a mere depiction of the reality. But I have a simple question I would like to raise. Shouldn’t a movie like that leave me (the vulnerable) feeling stronger, empowered or knowing that I am not alone?
Do filmmakers think about the immediate feeling they would leave their audiences with? Or is it just about making movies which are dramatic enough, intense enough to be called a ‘good’ movie?
I watched a movie titled ‘Mom’. At no point did I think about the relationship I share with my mother. All I thought about was how I lied to her about being out tonight and how if something happens to me, she would not know where I am. There was something fundamentally wrong about the movie ‘Mom’. It just made the vulnerable feel more vulnerable while money flowed into the pockets of the filmmakers.
My intent for my Friday night was clear. I wanted to relax, watch an easy going movie, have a good time with my friend, go back home and sleep. But this was taken away from me. While I know what my intent was, I still don’t understand what the intent of the movie was. And, I think it’s time we start asking this question.
I am not saying that we should not talk about these issues or not depict violence. I think we absolutely must. Popular culture is powerful and why not talk about issues that impact our life using the medium. However, the buck does not stop at what you are talking about rather at how is it that we are talking about it and why is it that we are talking about it. You can live with the what of it but there are people out there who might have to live with the why and how of it.