Anatomy of Violence
Sudipto Roy January-February 2017
Deepa Mehta Uncovers the Monster in a Rapist
An investigation of India’s most notorious gang rape, Deepa Mehta’s Anatomy of Violence was hailed as the most creative outlet for dialogue in Toronto this November. The film indicts the society that breeds rapists and instigates gender violence.
Canada-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta delves deep into the cultural aspects of India that breeds a notion of power exercised against women. The thought provoking film urges further discussion and deconstruction of our society and its norms that somehow manages to fuel enough courage in men to exercise brutality of various sorts and degrees against women in our country. Deepa’s filmography speaks volumes about her constant inner disruption in terms of cinema aesthetics as well as the subjects. Whether her Elements trilogy (‘Fire’, ‘Earth’, ‘Water’) or the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’, critics and festival juries have debated and discussed the societal repercussions of her films.
As an apt addition to her body of work capturing time and demystifying the gradual depreciation of human values, the Indo-Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter decided to scrutinise the advent of the ‘monster’ that feeds on gender-based violence. In a poignant style that seeks subtle yet strong visual imagery that quite often sacrifices spectacular colours added layers of realism to all that she said over the years; Anatomy of Violence is no exception.
Anatomy of Violence was screened on November 26, 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF Bell Lightbox) and the audience at the theatre as well as on the panel discussions had an altered perspective. “The elimination of violence against women has been a primary interest of mine and I explored it in my film, ‘Heaven on Earth’ which primarily dealt with domestic abuse,” Deepa explained, when asked about her inclination towards gender issues and how the much talked-about 2012 Delhi gang rape incident added fuel to her growing displeasure. “To follow up, and trying to put a handle on the prevalent universal rape culture using the framework of the brutal gang rape in Delhi, it felt like a necessary step into the exploration of what makes a rapist. Are monsters born? Is this a genetic mishap or does gender inequality, patriarchy, power play and culture contribute to the making of monsters?” she wondered.
The distressing ‘Nirbhaya’ incident incited a mass movement witnessing a national uproar that resonated across the world bringing gender inequalities and atrocities of the world to the forefront. However, the ethical stand of a section of India’s population still remains under the shadow of ignorance and ill-informed definition of amusement.
The film cites the culpability of the social order and questions it for this regressive culture. Approached from various perspectives and depicted with various documentary-fictions, non-fictions and reports, Anatomy of Violence takes a path not taken at all. Meera explains, “I have tried to look at the complicity of the society into the making of these brutal killers. In no way does the film not hold the six rapists accountable for their crime. Rather, it talks about prevention. If as a society we can understand our own contribution towards gender inequality then perhaps we can undo it too.”
The horrific violence on the 23-year-old physiotherapy student spurred a massive protest to which Deepa was an integral part. She was the part of an experience where reactions projected a voice against a systemic misogyny. She was speaking about the challenges and the confluence of events and factors that create perpetrators of sexual violence. “Making movies is always tough. But, in Anatomy of Violence I took another route – a route which I had not explored before. The film is experimental in the form of a docu-drama and a work of collaboration with a lot of improvisation. The post production was challenging as we had to put together more than 80 hours of footage into a comprehensive conventional 93 minute film without losing any of the organic nature of the performances or the shoot,” Deepa explained.
Indian cinema in the last couple of years has at least walked to the other side of the road despite believing the fact that we have patriarchy, misogyny, gender inequality and there is an outside possibility that we will often have a guy just using physical power feeling that he can do it. However, this film is definitely a provoking step forward that can discuss the dialogue about what we can do as a society to address gender disparity and sexual violence.