The 2012 Delhi gangrape jolted the country into action — opeds were written, the police and the judiciary were criticised, and most importantly people began looking inwards. Vibha Bakshi’s Daughters of Mother India, a 45-minute documentary is a similar exercise.
Though based on the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gangrape, much like Leslie Udwin’s controversial India’s Daughter, Daughters of Mother India takes a holistic view of the issue at hand. It brings out the debates surrounding gender violence in the country.
Business journalist turned documentary filmmaker Bakshi has worked with stalwarts such as Maryann DeLeo (White Horse, Chernobyl Heart, Too Hot Not To Handle and more). “I wanted to tell stories that had longer shelf lives, something with a social impact,” says Bakshi.
After the 2012 Delhi gangrape, the issue of violence against women became highly politicised. Bakshi, too was caught in that moment of “revolution”, but she was aware that she didn’t want her story to be sensational. Bakshi was part of a discussion curated by AVID Learning in Mumbai.
“The police was one of the most critical components of the storyline, if I didn’t get them, I knew there was no story to be told,” she says. Perhaps, one of the only filmmakers to have gotten wide access to the Delhi Police control room, Bakshi used it to paint an exhaustive picture of violence against women and the actors involved in it. The command centre of the Delhi Police receives close to 25,000 calls in a day, and police officers of various cadres proclaim that more and more women are registering complaints every day.
“The terms of inequality in India is manifest in terms of gangrape and not just rape. Here you have a gang of boys who want to have fun,” says Dipankar Gupta in the documentary film. Through a wide range of perspectives from the likes of Leila Seth, lawyers, law and order officials, Bakshi lets the voices do the talking for her. Gupta also speaks about how the patriarchal mindset is ingrained and existing social biases that have deep impact on how we think and talk about women and what we expect of them.
Made during 2013-2014, soon after the Delhi gangrape, the film was bestowed with the prestigious National Film Award for the best film on social issues. “I realised that the issue was not them vs us, cops vs us or families like this or that. I became non-judgemental,” says Bakshi. She vehemently upholds the idea that it is a “fight in which we are all responsible” and that it is up to everyone in the society “to harbour change.”
Bakshi’s doesn’t get stuck on the 2012 gangrape in Daughters of Mother India, instead she highlights the case of Gudiya, a young child who was brutally raped by two men and through that and her interviews with NGO workers who help survivors of sexual abuse, Bakshi highlights child sexual abuse — a topic that is not widely discussed.
Essentially, Bakshi’s film is hopeful, it asks questions and through its narrative tries to answer some of the questions, but what it really does is open a dialogue that is much needed. “I was sure that I did not want people to associate disgust or disillusionment with this film, I wanted it to have a hopeful tone,” she says and adds that it would perhaps help us feel like there are things we can do to prevent these crimes rather than give into a feelings of helplessness.