The Indian government on Tuesday banned the broadcast in India of British filmmaker Leslee Udwin’s ‘India’s Daughter’, a documentary about the horrific gang rape and murder of the young physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey on a New Delhi bus in December 2012.
The ban prompted the BBC to reschedule its broadcast in the UK from 8 March – International Women’s Day – to Wednesday night.
Ms Udwin, the award-winning producer behind ‘East is East’ and its sequel ‘West is West’, made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “deal with the unceremonious silencing of the film”.
“This was an opportunity for India to continue to show the world how much has changed since this heinous crime. Sadly…the banning of the film will see India isolated in the eyes of the world. It’s a counterproductive move”, she added.
India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh declared that the “archaic views of a rapist” should not be broadcast to the public.
For once, I agree.
For the first ten minutes of the film we hear the horrific events that took place on the night of 16 December 2012, when Ms Pandey and a friend were lured into the bus and beaten, and how five men – including a 16-year-old – took it in turn to rape and mutilate her in the most appalling fashion.
The film then cuts immediately to one of the attackers – Mukesh Singh – who utters the now-infamous claim that Ms Pandey was brutalized only because she “fought back” instead of “enduring”.
Singh goes on to talk about the events of the night, the depravity of his childhood and ruminates extensively about the difference between men and women.
The rest of the film is dedicated to outlining what occurred in the aftermath of the attack – when thousands of people poured onto the streets across India to protest and to demand an end to the ill treatment of women.
Scenes of protests are interspersed with the gut-wrenching testimony of Ms Pandey’s parents.
Singh’s views aren’t the only abhorrent one’s aired in the film – those of the lawyers who represented the five men in court, M. L. Sharma and A. P. Singh, are even more odious.
“A girl is like a diamond”, Sharma says. “If you throw the diamond out on the street and a dog grabs it, you can’t blame the dog for that”.
A. P. Singh adds: “If my daughter or sister is out at that time (Ms Pandey and her friend were attacked at 8 pm), then I would personally take her to my farm, pour patrol on her and burn her alive”.
Both these men uttered exactly the same words in the aftermath of their clients’ trial two years ago, causing widespread shock and anger. Udwin merely reboots those views here, interspersed with numerous experts providing explanations about the status of women in India.
Mukesh Singh is the real “star” of the show – and there really is no better word to describe his appearance, his very presence in this film.
There is a smugness in his demeanour that is utterly shocking.
His – and his fellow attackers’ – depravity is well documented: one inserted a metal rod inside Ms Pandey whilst another thrust a hand inside her and pulled out her innards, causing fatal injuries.
One surgeon who treated Ms Pandey at the time described her internal injuries as the worst he had seen in a two-decade long career.
We all knew about the horrific nature of this crime. The world was shocked and appalled by it. We knew the brutality of it all – Ms Pandey’s father says that it is difficult to call these men monsters because “monsters too have limits”.
So why was it necessary to hear from the monster’s mouth the details of the evils he committed? It serves no purpose.
Be sure, there’s nothing in ‘India’s Daughter’ that we don’t know. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that things have changed since December 2012.
The film is nothing more than a platform for a depraved man to air his depraved views. Nothing more, nothing less. The thousands who took to the street in the months following the crime knew of this man’s depravity. The world knew, in graphic detail. We did not need Ms Udwin to remind us of it again.
It is akin to giving Hitler or bin Laden or Charles Manson ten minutes on the Today program to explain what they did.
That kind of evil cannot be explained.
Not even Mukesh Singh’s regressive attitudes towards women – attitudes that he shares with his lawyers and countless other men in India – can explain the brutality of the crime he committed.
‘India’s Daughter’ then was a pure piece of sensationalism.
Some may argue that as a journalist it was Ms Udwin’s job to interview Singh and I’m certain her intentions were right but the film ends up glorifying unimaginable evil.