A young woman reacts violently when the phrase ‘izzat lootna’ (outraging modesty) is used to explain the fact that she has been raped. She insists that the word ‘balatkaar’ be used instead, because her ‘izzat’, or honour, isn’t tangible and cannot be taken away from her in an act of physical or sexual violence. This scene forms the crux of the upcoming film W, by first-time director Tarun Chopra.
For Mumbai-based Chopra, the term “reality” had a different meaning when he was directing reality shows, soap operas, advertisements and award functions. But in 2011, when his friend, musician Daboo Malik, suggested a plot for a film, Chopra didn’t think twice before quitting his job and plunging into the project. “India has become infamous for violence against women. Through this film, we try to understand the reason behind the rise in such a crime,” says Chopra.
The director believes that the issue of sexual violence against women ails our society much like a disease would affect a person. “When a doctor checks a patient, he first identifies the disease and then treats it. We, as a society, have failed to identify the reason for the growing sexual crime in the country,” says Chopra.
The film, therefore, attempts to answer the basic question: Why do men rape? The story revolves around three girls who are raped while on a vacation in Delhi and their refusal to be treated as victims. Debutant actors Leeza Mangaldas, Lezlie Tripathy and Sonal Giani play the lead roles while Malik has composed the music.
In the course of researching for the film, Chopra and Malik spoke to several rape victims and their families. “It was difficult because these young women somehow felt ashamed of themselves. It’s what made me ask: Why should a woman feel ashamed of something that is not her fault?” says the director.
The question was, in fact, also addressed by one of the film’s leading ladies, Mangaldas, in an opinion piece she wrote for a news portal in 2013. “Unfortunately, in India rape is inextricably linked by men— and women — to shame: the ultimate desecration. Many victims are murdered by their rapists or choose to commit suicide. It is also not uncommon for the parents of rape victims to kill themselves. Thus, most victims don’t speak up about what happened to them, lest their families be ostracised, lest they never find a husband or be shunned by their friends,” she wrote in the piece.
Chopra, however, does not want his film to sermonise. “The message has to be made palatable for viewers, which is why our film has been structured as a thriller,” he says. It is also the reason why he did not opt for “the film festivals route”.
Yet, all that Chopra wants for the film is that it helps women in India to separate the idea of honour from sexual violence. “I want men to watch the film and try to find the answer to the rising number of sexual crimes in the country,” he says. The film is slated to hit the theatres on March 14.