We need Salander

Why we should not sanitise Fincher’s new movie

Written by Nandini Nair | Published:February 16, 2012 12:00 am

Why we should not sanitise Fincher’s new movie

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was to be released in India last Friday,but didn’t. Directed by David Fincher,who made The Social Network and Fight Club,it has bagged five Academy Award nominations,including Best Actress for Rooney Mara,but the Indian theatre audience is reportedly caught in a tussle between Fincher and the Central Bureau for Film Certification (CBFC). The latter wants some cuts and pixellation; the filmmaker reportedly doesn’t.

Set in the sunless winter of Sweden,the movie,based on Steig Larsson’s bestseller of the same name,tears the veneer of a civilised society to reveal undercurrents of physical abuse,perversions and Nazism. It tells the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who investigates the disappearance of a young girl 40 years ago. He takes the help of Lisbeth Salander (Mara) a 90-pound,bleached-eyebrowed computer-hacker and male-thrasher.

While the book smoulders with violence and rage,hurt and revenge,it went on to sell 65 million copies,making it one of the most popular books of all time. The book and the movie rankle,often forcing one to turn the page quicker and grab the chair harder. It targets grown-ups — those who can tell fact from fiction,right from wrong,and who must reckon with the magnitude of female sexual assault and the fathomless rot of this world.

Reuters reported that Fincher refused to cut two love-making scenes and a rape and torture scene from his R-rated adaptation as demanded by the CBFC. Sony Pix,the movie’s Indian distributor,then said they are yet to take a final call on whether they woukd release the film with the cuts. However,in the film,the controversial scenes serve to anchor the protagonist’s purpose — that’s the reason for her revenge and her rebellious self. Salander is who she is because of the abuse hailed down on her.

We need Salander. We need an unloved punk heroine raging on the screen and skulking in our conscience. We might not identify with Salander,but we will applaud her refusal to be a victim. Larsson writes,“She went around with the attitude that she would rather be beaten to death than take any s***. And she always got revenge.” When a man in the subway grabs her backpack,she doesn’t stand there yelling for help,instead she chases him up the escalator,fights him,snatches her bag,and flies back into the train. This scene provides just a preview of her avenging skills.

You may clap and cheer for her. You may not also. But Salander who is “different in every way”,reminds us that every person is a palimpsest of past experiences and present conditions. She doesn’t need to be beautiful,or educated,or even “normal” to outsmart and outshine the latest James Bond,Daniel Craig. Her sheared-off hair,black lipstick,zero social status,sear her as an outcast,who cannot be slotted into any “ism”. She chooses to live on the fringes but grapples and tries to redeem the dark and dangerous problems of this world. We need figures like her.

Some television channels these days flash the message “If you have any complaint,regarding the content of this programme on this channel please file a complaint with ibfindia.com.” From 20 June,2011 to 2 January,2012,the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council received 3,610 complaints,varying from “brutality against infants. Creates trauma in mind of not only pregnant ladies but also all the mothers,” to “man and woman kissing passionately with slurping sound.” While all intimate scenes hastily disappear,references to “private parts” and even words like “condom” and “virgin” have been deemed unfit for an Indian audience,turning the anatomical into the forbidden. As we become hecklers,taking offence has snubbed any sort of critical engagement with art works.

Not all movies are made for children,but today it seems all content must be infantalised and made “child-friendly” or else merit edits,slashes and blackouts. “Family-oriented”,the lowest common denominator,has become the yardstick to measure the creative arts. That is why the censor board should also seriously consider 15-plus rating,between U/A and A.

This is an adult world,with adult problems,from which children must be sheltered. But it is the duty of our arts to deal with these realities. To sanitise all that we see and all that we read,is to create an unreal fairytale world,from which,eventually,everyone wakes up.

After all,as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo warns us,“What is hidden in snow comes forth in the thaw.”

nandini.nair@expressindia.com

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