Sweet smiles and flowery music aren’t what you’d usually associate with a video tackling victim-blaming in crimes against women.
There is something haunting about the mad gleam in Kalki Koechlin's and Juhi Pandey’s eyes in the “It’s your fault” video that’s doing the rounds lately. You know this isn’t just a campaign they're doing for someone else. You can feel how personal this is for them, and how personal it’s becoming for you as you’re watching it.
The video features Kalki and Juhi mock-convincing us women of the same thing we hear from everywhere in different flavours – from policemen who want their area sans crime, from politicians who want to protect our “culture”, and from parents who just want their daughters safe – “Rape is your fault”.
The part that irritates me about most apparently well-meaning TV shows, campaigns, cinema, and some written features on India’s rape/violence against women culture is that many of them unwittingly belittle the issue with tasteless, needless hyperbole. News channels do it via a silly choice of ominous or tragic background music, as if any music could possibly make us feel worse about a woman having an iron rod pushed up her vagina. In print, sometimes even news reports take it too far with judgmentality (for example this report on an honour killing which feels the need to include phrases like "Billu, the remorseless father of Nidhi" or "parents have not even filed a complaint").
The “It’s your fault” video, by a comedy group called All India Bakchod (AIB), breaks all the rules of traditional anti-rape campaigns. Both the women protagonists of the video (actress Kalki Koechlin and VJ Juhi Pandey) are smiling throughout the three and a half minutes. The background music is the summery happy morning kind that would usually accompany a Garnier commercial.
But look a little closer and listen to what they have to say, and the irony begins to hit you. The pain in their eyes even as they smile through gropes, grabs, assault, and all kinds of humiliation, is a gut-wrenching reminder of the implications behind what we’re being asked to do every day – 'be sensible and dress “decently”'; 'loosen up, he is your husband after all'; 'don’t work late and go to deserted places even if your livelihood depends on it'. If you dare to do any of the above and get hurt while doing so, then at least have the sense to admit that you were warned. In other words, “it’s your fault”.
The two systematically knock down multiple stereotypes and clichés that are unknowingly internalised in the quest to make the “It’s your fault” logic work.
This venture can’t have been easy given the seriousness of the topic and the delicate sensibilities of the public. Taking an issue like patriarchy or rape and choosing to get your message across via satire must have been incredibly difficult to do. The AIB team, I think, were largely successful because of the glaring obviousness of the hurt and the relevance of this cause to the women featured in the video.
Where I felt that Farhan Akhtar’s well meaning yet what I felt was patronising MARD campaign failed (in my good friend Archana’s words “It’s like they still want to make it about them. Let’s not lose our moustaches over this, lads. We'll handle it.”), AIB’s “It’s your fault” scores.
One more time, in case you've forgotten:
IT'S YOUR FAULT