Anurag Kashyap’s open letter to all rape victims

Thu, July 10, 2014 12:20am UTC by 1 Comment
Anurag Kashyap, open letter, rape victims

The Gangs Of Wasseypur maker explains his stand on rape, feminism, his recent short film and much more

Anurag Kashyap is known to take a stand on important issues. In one of his recent interviews he was misquoted saying “rape is a bad accident”. The ace filmmaker clarifies his stand on the statement and explains as to how he was misquoted in an open letter. Read on…

Dear All,

When I am not making movies – which is thankfully rarely – my favourite pastime is to get fundamentally quoted without the context. Blame the lack of space in newspapers today with all those advertisements accounting for most of it. It helps to keep our conversation going, you see. And it has happened again. My whole conversation has been reduced to one line that’s being knocked around, “rape is a bad accident says anurag kashyap

Fun though it is, I think it’s time I speak for myself and not let some out-of-context quote in a paper, or an edited version of a half-an-hour conversation do the talking.

Sitting here in Karlovy Vary I have been inundated with texts and mails about an interview of mine, that has of course, as always, been completely misread. It does not help that a long conversation has been reduced to a paragraph, but credit to the writer that he does mention that the now-controversial paragraph is the point of view of a woman and not my own.

The reactions on various social platforms do prove that in anger the opinionists also turn blind, and they actually read what they want to, so that they can rage over it, rather than seeing it and arguing healthily over it.

I don’t mean to spoil the rage party, but let me try to bring some context here.

Recently, I was in conversation with a woman, who quoted an old article she had read in The Times of India oped page, years ago. That article profiled a courageous rape survivor, a European woman living in India, who after being gang raped, actually fought for a fair trial for her rapists and a lighter sentence. She strongly protested any baying for blood or vengeful mindset. She was in fact ridiculed and vilified for standing up for justice for her own rapists. When asked why she did it – she said that she would treat the trauma of her rape the same way she would treat the trauma of being in a terrible car crash. She would try to heal from it, she would want the irresponsible perpetrators punished, but she would not allow the crime to gain greater significance than she felt it was due. Any greater assignment of meaning to her own rape would be to give in to a male view of the female gender. She also believed that her identity and her dignity did not reside between her legs, but between her ears.

The woman friend of mine who told me about this case, also mentioned that this article made her rethink the concepts of honour, izzat, dignity and personal identity, for years to come.

What was read as my comment or statement in the HINDU were actually “questions” raised by the survivor, which were then subsequently narrated to me by another woman and by me to Sudhish Kamat who writes it like it is but not all of it, which by now is attributed to me as my quote. Those questions stayed with me and bothered me, and made me question things, because I felt that there was a certain truth to them.

I am not so good at articulation without my camera, but let me try and elucidate the point my female friend was making: No woman invites rape, rape is never ever the woman’s fault, and no woman would chose it – if the choice was a viable one. But in a situation where the choice is between life and rape, a woman might just choose the latter. If her choice is ‘life’, why is that very life taken away from her, once she is raped? Why is she called stuff like ‘zindaa laash’ and why does the entire focus shift to ‘honour’ rather than to ‘healing’? To ‘punishment’ rather than to ‘rehabilitation’? When does the male gaze take over, such that even the extent of the victim’s physical and mental bruising is decided for her by others?

Why is she never granted the quiet she so sorely needs? She is frequently dragged out by the social worker to narrate her story again and again, she relives the trauma again and again, she is used to make a point. should that not be a choice. the choice of the survivor.

The woman who told me this story also said that she often puts a very difficult binary choice to her female friends: Such as: burnt alive, or rape? Dismembered, or rape? Acid attack, or rape? Horrible though it sounds, when given a choice like this, many women went quiet. The horror of rape, when pitted against other ghastly horrors, acquired a perspective. Not that of being ‘fine’ or ‘acceptable’ but often, of the lesser evil – if other brutalities or violence was not involved.

Does this mean any of us is trivializing rape here? Far from it. It is a violent, traumatic, battering, violating experience. All I want to say is that let us not add male notions of honour and purity to it. That is like adding insult to the injury.

The point is about not having a choice. When one is raped, there often is no choice. When one has the option of fight or flight one uses it but often neither option is available. It is the same in a bad accident. You do not have a choice but you go through the brutality .

However, what happens afterward is telling. When in a bad accident, the victim goes to the doctor or a hospital, tries to recuperate, allows oneself to heal, the victim is rehabilitated or allowed to rehabilitate.

And the one who causes the accident is punished.

My distress with our social network-ists is that they assume they understand rape simply because they are women. Rape is not that easily understood and it is not a gender’s prerogative to do so.

In this world men are raped too and more so in our society, in this part of the world. I am also a victim of rape and I have healed a lot more than most because the world was not fussing over me.

Suddenly there is a new term being thrown around, VAW (violence against women) well, coming to VAW, VAW is not the same as rape, VAW includes rape but rape has a much broader bracket that includes the other gender too and also the one we most often don’t consider a gender, the transgenders, who are the biggest victims of the said crime..How I look at Violence? You can’t wish it away, laws will not and can’t control it, it has existed since the mankind has existed, violence against animals, violence against humanity, all kinds of violence exists and will continue to as long as people are not equal. as long as two people will have different strengths and ability, there will always be a power struggle and there will be violence. The weak will always be violated by the strong and it is not gender specific. You can police it. regulate it .. there is violence in sport but is regulated. the perpetrator is always shown a yellow card, then a red card and then is barred from the field and if he/she continues, is banned from the game for life. Only physical assault does not constitute violence, emotional blackmail is also violence, mind games are also violations, misusing nirbhaya laws is also violence and rise in that VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN since those laws have been constituted, was even commented on by the Supreme court just last week. Every solution will create a new problem. anyway i am digressing here..its a never-ending discourse.

If I had to discuss or argue about rape, I would much rather do so with the victims and survivors than with a feminist.Why? Because I get a strong feeling that the Indian feminist is very hard to talk to, because he/she doesn’t listen. He/She has a fully formed opinion etched in stone and will give no space to accommodate any other point of view.

Indian feminists start with the agenda already defined, and hence there is no room for any other opinion or position. Feminists are always eager to adopt any woman with a strong voice as their own. We saw our film Queen being immediately adopted by them as a feminist film. Let me say here that neither is Vikas Bahl a feminist, nor am I, and we both love and respect women as we do men: as people, as human beings. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Queen was not intended to be a feminist film, it was the love and respect for this human being and her story that came through, the film was not pro woman or anti men. It was a story of a girl finding her own self and how she does it on her terms.

I know a lot of women who the feminists project as their own and these women hate it, they hate it because they don’t see themselves that way but don’t say it out loud because they are mortally afraid of offending the feminists. The fear that the feminists inculcate even in women is especially peculiar.

Next. coming to my short film – well everything we do is not always a statement. The purpose of the film was not to offer a solution but to tell a story. I made a deal where I was obligated to do a short film for the platform it provided to five other young filmmakers around me who I think deserve more and so that they can showcase what they are capable of. They made their shorts and the time came to do mine, we were running out of time, I was already late by a month. We were to do a short film and I had two days and the script was chosen from a bunch of scripts and purpose of the film was not to offer a solution. Purpose of the film was to tell a story, and this was the best of the lot, it had its issues but we did not have time to iron out the issues and in that story we tried to shoot it in a way , that one feels the harassment. The ending was meant to be light hearted. We had no idea that it would go viral and that’s our shortcoming probably, we had no idea that it will be taken as my opinion and even after it was, it helped to bring forth so many points of view – and that wouldn’t have happened if that short did not exist.

I responded to and engaged with some sensible points but the angry, short sighted judgemental ones that came from twitter anger we chose to ignore. I refuse to take the responsibility of making a statement on behalf of a half baked -ism of this country through my work. I am not your voice so please stop expecting me to be, I am on my own journey and constructive points of views help me grow and understand things more, I have been taught not to be afraid to sound like an authority before I speak, I have been taught to speak freely because until and unless you don’t do that, there will not be debates and discussion and arguments.

I am my own voice and I speak for myself, and my life is an ongoing process, I have not come to any conclusions about anything in life, about you or me or cinema or rape or women or anything. I react, I think, I over react, I think too much and I think aloud. I am what I do and not what I am expected to do.

I don’t think I am that important in any scheme of things and I write this letter for the sake of the few people I actually care about, who are distressed, and who urge me to have my say.

- Anurag Kashyap

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  • SPG

    Bravo Anurag ! 3 pages long to clear out one single sentence. I’m happy you did it and didn’t let anybody misunderstood what wasn’t meant to be


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