G Kutta Se movie review: Heart-stopping portrayal of misogyny and murder in Haryana
Director: Rahul Dahiya
In a small town in Haryana, not far from where I sit writing this review, a woman escapes home in the dead of night with her lover. Within minutes, they are abducted by car-jackers. On the drive that follows, during which she is almost raped, one of the men asks why she is running away. Is her husband impotent? Does he beat her up? He runs through a list that even an ultra-conservative might see as believable reasons (reasons, not justifications) why a woman might choose to dump her pati parmeshwar, the deity she is legally and socially bound to for life.
This pretty, feisty (albeit slightly silly) creature does not fit the mould of his imagination though. She is leaving, she says, because she does not love her husband and he has no interest in her beyond the few minutes he spends each day getting into her salwar.
That early conversation in a cramped vehicle flying down a Haryana-Delhi highway comes to mind when we later meet another free spirit in a tiny Haryana village, the lovely Kiran who has a mind of her own, and emotions, plans, dreams and desires no one expects her to have. Writer-director Rahul Dahiya’s heart-stoppingly beautiful G Kutta Se (earlier called G – A Wanton Heart) is about the claustrophobic and hypocritical world that suppresses and suffocates those like Kiran, a world where family ‘honour’ resides between the legs of womankind.
This is a place where women are denied dignity and men roam free, where loneliness and sexual yearning can drive women to make foolish choices in men, where segregation could result in dangerous innocence, where such innocence and gullibility in a girl can become punishable, where men may vent their testosterone on unwilling women yet demand virginity from their daughters and sisters, where women are themselves often aggressive purveyors of patriarchy, where a disinterested woman is more desirable than one who says yes, where a man might avenge his unrequited lust by raising a din about the ‘chastity’ of a girl who did not notice him and targeting the chap she did, and where death is a real and present danger for any girl or woman who does not play by the rules.
However much the media may have told us about what are euphemistically termed ‘honour killings’, nothing can prepare us for the casualness with which such crimes are committed by ordinary people in G Kutta Se. However disturbing the film’s early scenes may be, nothing prepares us for the frightening level of misogyny and the murders that follow.
Four stories intersect here: they involve the runaway wife, her abductor Virender, his little sister who gets exploited by a creepy local boy and Kiran, a college girl who is having a clandestine affair. This is clearly a social setting Dahiya knows well. What makes his work exceptional though is its unassuming tone and utter sincerity. There is no “see how socially conscious I am” attitude here that has pervaded many recent Bollywood films made by directors who do not give a damn about women’s rights but chose to cash in on the increasing media spotlight on feminism; there is no screeching background score to melodramatise intrinsically dramatic scenarios; no fanfare with which ‘issues’ are raised. In G Kutta Se, life unspools on screen as though it just happened to happen while a camera passed by.
Far from downplaying the seriousness of the subject at hand, Dahiya’s matter-of-fact storytelling style and Sachin Kabir’s unobtrusive cinematography have the effect of further underlining the blazing intensity of their theme, so that every new development comes as a punch in the gut.
Understatement is among the film’s greatest assets. The other is its cast of actors so natural that they feel like real people whose true story is being told. Although an array of smaller characters are well-written and well-rounded off, the two who end up being protagonists of sorts are Kiran and Virender played by the good-looking Neha Chauhan (earlier seen in Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhoka) and Rajveer Singh. Both deliver flawless performances.
“G” in the title is to be read variously as the Hindi words for “live” (from the usage “live your life”, as for example with “ja Simran, ja g le apni zindagi”) or “the human will” (derived from a scene in the film where a woman says, “jisko g karega na, usko doongi” which amounts to “I shall fuck whoever I please”); or even the G-spot, which epitomises the sexual pleasure forbidden to the women of this film. This is my interpretation of the director’s notes, which I sought out after watching the film. Initially the title struck me as inaccessible, since it does not immediately offer up its meaning, but having heard the catchy song accompanying the closing credits (music: Anjo John, lyrics: Dahiya and Danish Raza), I find myself intrigued and still enjoying the challenge of translating “G Kutta Se”. Figure out your own take once you watch it.
It is a measure of the extent to which the Censor Board interferes in filmmakers’ creative choices these days that the Board had the audacity to ask for the replacement of this quote which was placed at the start of the film, “Your borrowed ego lies rooted in the same taboo, the same sexual desire, which gave you life, for which you cease my existence,” with these statistics which were earlier placed at the end: “There are about 5000 honour killings reported every year in 23 countries around the world. Official estimates state that about a 1000 persons are reported killed in India alone. However, a large number of cases go unreported.” The figures are appalling, no doubt, but where they are presented in the film should have been the director’s business and his alone. The idiocy and arrogance of the Board should be the subject of a full-length feature some day soon.
G Kutta Se runs for 103 crisply edited minutes, but feels less. Not too long back, Navdeep Singh’s excellent NH10 had taken us into a Haryana hinterland ridden with gender-related violence. G Kutta Se is completely different yet just as searingly effective. It is about hypocrisy and double standards, but the point about it is not that it merely picks a relevant topic. The point is that it does a great job of telling a solid story based on that relevant topic.
There are several bloody moments in G Kutta Se (none of them gratuitous), but the scene that shook me to the core had no gore. It features a young woman arranging a rendezvous with her male lover. When they meet, all he wants is to have sex, and he is taken aback when she refuses, assuming perhaps at first that she is playing hard to get – I confess, at first, I wondered if the filmmaker was making a crowd-pleasing concession here, to go along with the prevalent “she asked for it” response to sexual assault. The young man finally snaps: If you did not want this, why on earth did you come here? I just wanted to meet, she replies tearily.
The fact that he (a comparatively decent chap, considering the dismal scenario) had not even considered that possibility; that for him a relationship with a woman is not about conversations and friendship but about sex alone is scary and deeply saddening to say the least.
Far beyond its shock value, it is scenes like this – unexpected, acutely observant and written with moving sensitivity – that make G Kutta Se such a special film.