It's been almost a year since a gang rape in Delhi overtook the news cycle and sparked protests and discussion about women's safety, sexual violence and patriarchy in India and around the world. On the eve of that anniversary, when we start to ask if there have been any real changes in policing, education and everything else, Anurag Kashyap (Dev D, Gangs of Wasseypur, That Girl in Yellow Boots) releases a short film called, That Day After Everyday, that looks at sexual harassment, surveillance and violence in India. The film is written by Nitin Bhardwaj and stars Sandhya Mridul, Radhika Apte, Arannya Kaur and Geetanjali Thapa.
The 20 minute short film, which you can watch below, is told in Hindi and unfortunately without English subtitles, but even if you don't understand Hindi, you will still feel what each character experiences and the underlying message won't be missed.
Watch That Day After Everyday
Anurag Kashyap's strengths lie in his ability to extract raw, honest performances from his actors, and in his team's ability to execute strong casting in his films. The problem with this short film is that, while it criticizes the acts of surveillance, sexual violence and harassment by men, the solution provided is that women need to be more confident and strong, and fight back and defend themselves. While this message has the potential to be empowering, what the film really says is that it's up to women to stop the cycle of sexual violence and harassment by men.
Rather than provide a larger critique of patriarchy and the systems that support it, the film tells us that in order for men to take women seriously and stop harassing us, we need to look them in the eye with confidence and scare them off by fighting back with physical violence. It doesn't change the overall issue about how men treat women and how patriarchy and misogynistic attitudes are embedded in systems like policing, government, families and popular culture. What happens if, despite fighting back, a woman is still overpowered by her attacker? Should she stare at him with confidence and anger, and hope he'll run away?
Not quite. As writer, publisher and overall amazing feminist thinker, Urvashi Butalia says:
It is important to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Let's raise our voices against such violence and let's ask ourselves how we, in our daily actions, in our thoughts, contribute to this, rather than assume that the solution lies with someone else. Let's ask ourselves how we, our society, we as people, create and sustain the mindset that leads to rape, how we make our men so violent, how we insult our women so regularly, let's ask ourselves how privilege creates violence. - Urvashi Butalia, from The Hindu, December 26, 2012
As a teaching tool, this film misses the mark. But what I can appreciate is the depth of emotion and the nuanced performances by the three female actors, and Anurag Kashyap's penchant for creating moody, dark atmospheres is on mark. You can really feel what these women are experiencing because most women, at some time or another, in some country or another, have experienced some level of fear of violence by a man, whether it's on the street, in a home or among friends. And being able to punch a potential attacker in the mouth won't change that.