Meghna Gulzar’s stunning movie ‘Chhapaak’, based on the real-life story of the acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, who is played by the adept actress Deepika Padukone finally hit the theatres today.
The title song of the film has been garnering a lot of news recently for its avid glimpse into the spine-chilling film as well as for the interpretations it offers for the title ‘Chhapaak’.
However, as a student of the feminist theory and women’s movement, I feel that the title song, despite its striking glance into the film and Laxmi’s story, wavers from the very idea that the movie is trying to bring home.
The song is a moving representation of the pain and the bottomless darkness that an acid attack victim is pushed into. In a culture where largely a girl’s facial features are the most deterministic factors for several crucial aspects of her life, this unpardonable ruination of her face causes immeasurable physical, mental and social trauma to the survivor. The song successfully captures all of that.
But the central line of the song “Pehchaan le gaya” sounds to be a bit, if not greatly problematic. The word “pehchaan” literally translates to ‘identity’ in English.
A number of readers will see it as a reiteration of the stereotypical loss of the survivor’s identity, not in totality, but at least a part of it and a normalization of the fact that looks are connected with identity and the irreplaceable ruination of the former causes the erosion of the latter too.
Possibly the makers might have used the word “pehchaan” in a different sense, as it has more than one interpretation. Even the word ‘looks’ which is used to describe the physical and especially facial features of a person is translated to “pehchaan”, given the generalized linking of looks with identity.
Yet even if the word has several interpretations, it does not nullify the fact that one of its obvious interpretations links it up with a sense of loss of identity.
One can argue that since there are several ways of understanding the word, why this one possible meaning becomes so dangerous?
An Expectation Of Perfection:
In the light of the frighteningly increasing cases of crimes against women, there has been a surge in the portrayal of their stories in media. Plenty of movies and web series have been made on crimes against women.
This comes as a welcoming change in a society that has, for most of the time in the past been a victim-blamer rather than the criminal-shamer.
The message conveyed by movies such as these is strong and effective and the transformation of survival-centred portrayal to criminal-centred one is a giant and progressive leap.
But movies like these stand on slippery grounds, as they deal with subjects that have been a taboo since time immemorial. Thus, the way they put forward the story, the development of the plot and most importantly that of the woman needs to be meticulous.
Since these are precarious issues, a small error or space for negative interpretation of the message can have a disastrous impact.
For instance, a number of girls have reported that after watching movies on issues like rape, acid-attack etc., their parents have become more stringent about their going out and coming home timings, besides ensuring that they take other necessary “precautions”; because the movies present the world as a surely bad place.
So you see how the intended message of the movie was moulded subjectively to suit the archaic stereotypical thoughts of people. Hence, movies such as these should leave minimal possible space for subjective interpretations of the message, lest it is misinterpreted or lost totally.
A Milestone Nevertheless:
The seemingly minor erroneous understanding of “pehchaan le gaya” line of the title song might not alter the larger message that the movie is trying to convey.
Chhapaak no doubt is going to reign the box office for the next several weeks. It is absolutely heart-warming to see filmmakers make impactful movies on violence against women and send out the right message into the audience.
Thanks to the filmmakers for this path-breaking movie of the struggle and the journey of an acid-attack survivor, and most importantly, for her valorisation rather than victimisation!
Image Sources: Google Images
Sources: Blogger’s Own Views
Find Blogger @Rhetorician_RC