Mahmood Farooqui acquitted: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury's Pink is the best on-screen lesson on consent

Gautam Chintamani

Sep,29 2017 08:23:07 IST

Irrespective of what stance Mahmood Farooqui’s defense takes to define the nature of his relationship with the 30-year old US scholar, who had accused him of rape, few things remain the same.

When the trial had commenced, Farooqui’s legal team had refuted any relationship with the American woman in the lower court that delivered a seven-year sentence for rape, but in the High Court, which set aside the previous sentence, Farooqui’s legal counsels — now including Kapil Sibal — admitted to his client being in a relationship with the same woman since 2015.

Mahmood Farooqui. Image from News 18.

The complete U-turn notwithstanding, her being or not being in a ‘relationship’ cannot have any bearing on the allegation that she was violated and raped. But more than this change in strategy, Justice Ashutosh Kumar’s judgment that suggests a ‘feeble no’ may mean a ‘yes’ to sex is the most disturbing outcome.

There is no denying that the concept of consent escapes most men. But actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.

prominent man getting away is nothing new but the manner in which he was set free is, in many ways, a great disservice to the concept of consent. Would it be incorrect to say that the manner in which the judgment is framed — “In such cases, it would be really difficult to decipher whether little or no resistance and a feeble ‘no,’ was actually a denial of consent.” — reeks of the same misogynistic mindset that millions of women have been fighting since time immemorial?

Albert Einstein had once said, “If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity”, and therefore a ‘no’ regardless of how ‘feeble’ it might be, leaves no ambiguity of being a ‘no.’

Last year filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink became a milestone of sorts in addressing consent and even though many critics and commentators branded it a ‘feminist’ film, Roy Chowdhury is very clear that he didn’t make Pink for women. In this writer’s book, Pink The Inside Story (HarperCollins, 2017), the filmmaker asserted that he wanted to make “this film for men” as he felt that as an artist responding to the what happens in the real world it is his responsibility to make the viewer feel responsible.

The cover of Gautam Chintamani's book; the cast of Pink.

In a telephonic interview, Roy Chowdhury said that there is nothing beyond consent and that is the ultimate thing. He further adds, “If a woman says ‘NO’ a man has to admit it, he has to acknowledge it, he has to respect it and most importantly he has to obey it.”

Popular culture occupies the lower levels of socially and historically constructed cultural hierarchies and therefore, popular cinema, in a way, is a cultural institution that helps to mediate a broad spectrum of social meanings, values and structure.

Popular Hindi cinema has for decades now propagated the very sentiment that occupies the judgement that set Farooqui free. In Bollywood right from the 1960s where a Shammi Kapoor went ‘Badan pe sitare lapete hue in the film Prince (1969) to an Aamir Khan in the 1990s in Deewana Mujhsa Nahin (1991) haranguing the girl till she would ‘give in’ the traditional Hindi film hero believes that every ‘na’ (no) is just a ‘haan’ (yes).

As a film to emerge from this stable, Pink was perhaps one of the few exceptions to not only address the issue of blatant or disguised misogyny but also cinematically depict reality in terms of situations and characters as closely as possible.

Amitabh Bachchan as Deepak Sehgal in Pink. Youtube screengrab.

Writer Ritesh Shah’s dialogue ‘no means no’ succinctly encapsulated the message that even in this day and age, unfortunately, needs to be told to men. Roy Chowdhury believes that the reason such a sentiment resonated with everybody because this was perhaps on everybody’s mind. “It’s there like air in the atmosphere and everyone wanted it to be addressed and we as a team tried to communicate it”, says Roy Chowdhury.

Nothing is hidden anymore in times such as the present. Social media hopefully will help enable a far and wide debate on the Mahmood Farooqui judgment.

However, one cannot say it any more emphatically that even without getting into the details of this case, the fact that a statement such as – “Instances of woman behavior are not unknown that a feeble “no” may mean a "yes" - in a rape case is sure to have a detrimental impact on furthering the messaging of the anti-rape slogan of No means No.

Reacting on the judgment, Roy Chowdhury is of the opinion that while he respects the court, he feels that to him “as a human being” and an individual ‘NO’ does infact mean ‘NO.’ He adds that no matter however communicated when a woman says no every man, even the dumbest of them, should understand.

Updated Date: Sep 29, 2017 08:50 AM