3.7.07

Silence- short film by Nupur Mathur




Nupur Mathur participated in Blank Noise in 2003, when the project had just started. She along with eight other students of Srishti School of Art Design and Technology were participants of workshops I facilitated over 3 months. At that time I was graduating and Nupur was in her first year.

Nupur writes about her film:

Silence is my first fiction film. The script for Silence was developed from an incident that happened to me a few years back. I was returning home from a tiring day at college. Frustrated, I just wanted to get home, on the way however, a little beggar child kept tugging at my clothes and interrupting my walk home. Eventually I turned around and harshly brushed her away saying leave me alone, I’m not going to give you anything. It turned out that the little girl wanted no money, rather wanted to give me a flower. I’m not sure why she wanted to give me this small white flower she had in her hand, but I was so overwhelmed by my stupidity and arrogance that I walked away rather than embracing the humble gesture.

After this incident I started to think about feminism and growing up. Of how the gaze of a man shifts as you grow up. The little girl I once was, was carefree, a tom boy who would hang out with the boys, ride cycles, cut my hair short, talk to strangers etc. I still however, looked at my older cousin sisters and wanted to wear sari’s and dress up and look beautiful. The day did come when it started to change. Puberty kicked in and I changed and continue to do so.

The original idea of Silence, which probably would have been called something else, was to explore these lost freedoms because of growing up, because of the way the world is. The little girl was me as a child and the older girl is me now. The little girl however, aspires to be one day, what the young woman is. The young woman however is subjected to the world outside, the male gaze and attention she’d rather not have, at least in the situation I put the young woman in.

I chose to not have the protagonist react to the incident in the bus because I think that mostly that is what happens. When faced with harassment in a public space, especially if you are alien to the people around you and different from them, you end up feeling helpless. It is a feeling where one does not know what to say or do. It is only through an afterthought; after the shock gives way to rage that one finds strength. I feel like men have a certain power over women in our society, this ‘silent arrangement,’ that has come into being is what women have to question.

21 comments:

  1. Nice film.. she should have actually done all that which was going through her head as she was walking.. but yes, I get the point. That's how she feels, in a way, that most girls feel.

    An interesting thing is.. did the guy on the street bump her intentionally? We don't know. But the incident in the bus surely makes her think so, and feel angry.

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  2. As I see it, the perpetrator should be made to realise what he did, so that he won't even want to do it again (& not just mere punishment where he doesnot do it again by force, but doesnot do it by his own will).. what we need is some actual change in the human psyche whereby the very mind which involved in such acts remains no more, a new mind is borne. Such change though may sound utopian, is possible. Therapy is indeed essential for such perpetrators & even a one-on-one enocunter with such individuals with the presence of someone capable to psychologically drilling into the mind of the perpetrator may indeed to be helpful in getting the perpetrator look at himself objectively, so that he can know what hurt he had produced & hence feels some real empathy for his own hideous act.

    Also, the victim should be provided with comfort & care after such an incident so that she can recover sanely (& not get out of the eposide with a reactionary mind, or a ixed mind set)... therapy or even talking to one's loved ones, self-exploration might indeed be helpful for the girl to get back her peace of mind.

    PS. Btw, the film was well made as per what it had to say.

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  3. Anonymous2:50 pm

    terrible things hapening. im from the netherlands, and by ous are this kind of things not happening. but it was a good movie.

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  4. this shows the cheap face of our society...if such things comes into limelight.. and u r aware of what's happening then those persons who are commiting such act should be punished brutally... and we have to come forward to stop such things. a nice video..and everyone should watch..

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  5. I find it appalling when people view everything from a single perspective. In this context, how a simple 'humble gesture' was inevitably linked back into the 'silent arrangement'. To my limited sense of comprehension, the author has effectively shifted blame ever so conveniently.

    So (hypothetically), I am over 6 feet tall and have to stand awkwardly in train compartments at peak hour. But ofcourse, I may have women standing next to me and this awkward head down position can lead to very embarrassing situations when women think I'm giving them 'the look'. The one tracked version (read the sensitised ones) of these women speak up in an ever so crowded train to have the rest of the compartment look down upon me with disdain. Alternatively and of equal potent, they give me that you-dirty-sleazebag look. Ofcourse, being 'one tracked' it never crosses their mind that the the compartment is 6 feet and he's a good quarter of a foot longer resulting in the awkward position he's at. But, that's not the point here. So, I have this phobia for crowded carriages with women in it. Now, more often than not, this phobia leads to me being late since I have to wait for empty (ish) carriages. Thus, not going down well with my manager - thereby affecting my yearly review - and thus my career.

    In short, this blog ruined my career.

    Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Wouldn't the world be an amazing place to live in only if I could shift blame like this.

    If you brush away a child following you to give you a flower in the assumption that she wanted alms, by my reckoning you should follow the age old cliched saying 'Don’t judge a book by its cover' and stop assuming anyone in ragged clothes = need money or even, anyone belonging to the opposite sex = satyr. Everyone makes mistakes. At such points, you stand up, take blame, learn from it and carry on. As wonderfully conceived the short film may be, if you stand up and point your finger at someone else - the whole point is lost.

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  6. Watching this film brought with it a sense of having been there and done that..So many times has this happened with me and it has always been in retrospect that I have wished I had done something,should have raised my voice, anything to save me the humilation. And then there are those times when you are in a crowded bus, with no place to sit and men keep digging themselves hard into you with the excuse of lack of space..It always fills me with disgust.

    There is one incident, though that I would like to share with the readers. This happened in Karol Bagh. A lady was walking down the lane with her daughter, when a guy kept brushing past the young girl. Infuriated, suddenly, in full view of everyone, the mother caught hold of the shirt collar of the fellow and smacked him many times over with her sandal. All the while, the girl stood timidly while her mum hurled choicest of abuses and continued the attack. Almost on cue, soon a large pack gathered around and took over from the lady. He was made to go down on his knees and apologise to the ladies.

    Watching this incident happen, I wished I had also found strength sometime to fight back.

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  7. I tried to post something very similar in content to what Namita said but the comment got timed out or something. Anyway, the gist of it was that I could feel the tension between the perpetrator and Nupur on that bus as if I was there. The tension that comes from knowing that at any moment all hell could break loose if she stood up and asked the bus driver to stop and throw the offender off, and the possible beating and curses which could have taken place. The perp, also aware escaped once again from this danger only to live to commit the offense another day. As a young boy I often watched this scene everywhere daily and waited to see if anything would happen, but mostly it never did and more's the pity.

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  8. "It is only through an afterthought; after the shock gives way to rage that one finds strength. I feel like men have a certain power over women in our society, this ‘silent arrangement,’ that has come into being is what women have to question. "

    I love this line - it is so true

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  9. Hi P,
    I liked your comment - what you say makes a lot of sense. Yes, it is unfair to always think that the guy is always thinking dirty thoughts and is upto no good.

    But one aspect of this film might make you think about WHY women are so guarded - sometimes guarded to a level of paranoia. Look at the perpetrator in this movie - looks like an average guy - a 'nice guy' maybe (clean shaven, neatly pressed clothes, glasses et al suggest someone who is educated, and probably even working) - yet - he probably gets away with crap like this EVERYDAY.

    So yes, it is unfair to blow things out of proportion and assume every guy out there has bad intentions, but you must understand that women go thrugh this for years and years on end - it is perhaps natural (as against 'easier') to become a little too wary, to be on 'alert' mode even before the 'crime' takes place, to the point of 'single-tracked' paranoia.

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  10. Thanks Nupur for filming a subject that we all women have faced at some point of time in our lives and are still facing today whenever we are in public places. Recently, while visiting the rest room in a newly-built shopping mall on Sohna Road, Gurgaon, I found to my horror a hand trying to grab something in the loo next to mine. Initially I thought it might be the housekeeping although, they never enter unannounced; but soon I found out that this was not so. As I was coming out of the loo frantically I found a peeping Tom. A sweaty, slimy face of a young man in 20s peeping above the door. I immediately screamed without much thinking and banking more on my reflexes I pulled out this character, who by then had almost become a walking zombie. With all my strength (God came to my rescue)I gave him two tight slaps but somehow he managed to flee by then. Even though I went running out and poured out the first-hand information to the authorities they could not locate him. However, the mall manager convinced me that they could trace the details of this person and was found to be an employee of a restaurant in the top floor. As I was pressed with time, because a house guest of mine had to catch a flight, I best laid matters in the hands of the authorities and had nothing much to do but trust the manager, when he said that they had sacked the fellow with immediate effect, and that they would leave no stone unturned to hand him over to Police if they ever found him loitering in the premises in future.

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  11. Hello people...
    Well in response to P... I just wanted to say that I did learn from that incident with the little girl. The reason I mentioned her story at all was because she was meant to represent the freedoms we lose as we grow up. Like others have also mentioned, we tend to become cautious, paranoid, and have pre-conceived notions about situations and people, and all of this just didn't happen. Incidents such as the one on the bus give birth to this ingrained paranoia. Yes it is unfair that men are seen as the guilty party more often than not. BUT it is important to note that paranoia exists, and even more important to realize that it exists for a reason.

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  12. tell me a about a woman who hasn't been through his & i'll show you one who has never stepped outside the confines of her home!

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  13. I really enjoyed the film, i was going through the web site for the course in bangalor and really made me think just how different art can be in the east and how such a simple film can carry such a complex idea!
    good job! could you please tell me a few things regarding the course??
    thanks,
    nat

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  14. Loved it! Superb and succint....

    I'm surprised the message p got is that of shifting blame...

    anyways, congrats Nupur - am linking it to my blog if thats ok.

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  15. Nice film, Well D you think only a women or a girl faces this situation in life? When I was in my early teenage I had faced exact situations numerous times. I had also heard similar stories from many of my friends. Back then I felt really terrible, just like how this girl felt. I don’t think there is difference between how a small boy would feel when he molested in public compare to girl.

    We must find a solution to get rid of this. I feel as long as men have sexual repression in them, they are going to continue this. As some people point out earlier most of the men control their sexual repression but not everybody. But women treat all men as same, which is very unfair.

    Now as a man, I don’t sit beside girl or woman inside bus even when the bus is jam packed just because I don’t want to scare that women or a girl (it doesn’t make much difference here in Singapore). I think it is all about accepting what we are and trying to find the solution for the same. For example we have sports and games for finding alternative for our natural instinct of fight, battle or war. Similarly we should think about cutting the root of this problem. What I feel is everybody is conscious about these matters but nobody think about finding cause of this problem. Not all but most of people just blame men, which is not going help anybody.

    Changing behaviour, attitude and cultural beliefs of people is not easy nor I don’t have quick solution for it but nobody seems to be serious about it. From what I have seen most of the people just think about solution to fix current scenario like respond against men and fight back. But how long, do we want fight of sexes? Do you think that can help stop man’s natural instinct? I personally feel these basic instincts are so powerful and these current solutions are not adequate enough to put end to this crisis. It doesn’t mean we have to stop all these current activities, I am just trying to say with these current activities people should also focus on the cause of the problem. The people should be also aware about the effect of the problem. I think effect of this problem gives birth to hate between sexes and also as someone mentioned earlier a single perspective towards all men. Now it is slowly changing in our society, I mean it is becoming more and more open but I feel everybody is waiting it to happen and nobody directly relates it to these matters!

    Personally I don’t want to be person who sit and wait for things to happen I want to go make things happen. This is very complicated issue and this is just my personal opinion so this is not meant to start any kind of argument.

    Rahul

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  16. okie, sorry for the critical take on ur film...but i feel the girl in ur film shud have alerted the people around her , slapped him... drawn attention to what the man was doing especially if she is in a foriegn environment. personnally for me, not being able to protect myself(doesnt matter if someone helps me or not) is worse than being felt up and not saying netin. men have control and power over women...simply because we give them our lease...and thats what the girl travelling in the bus did..she dint protest so the man will now harrass more women cause he has more balls to..if he had been slapped shouted out publically humilated...just maybe he would never try to touch another woman again..
    i feel ur film should have been more about what women CAN or SHOULD do and not about what they dont...

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  17. I would only like to add that the film above is a short 'sketch' of a everyday scenario experienced by women on the streets.

    prynk- i understand the tone of your message-but that is entirely the film maker's idea- created independent of Blank Noise and is meant to be seen that way.

    While some of us understand street sexual harassment because we have experienced it, there is another lot that simply doesnt get what we are talking about.

    Therefore- both kinds of films- one representing a scenario
    two- films about taking agency/ action heroes

    both are important.

    Also at Blank Noise we do not prescribe a reaction formula for anyone. Street harassment is contextual, every body has a different way of reacting, different body histories, memories and challenges.

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  18. Here is a situation on a bus in Germany which resulted in the female being asked to leave.

    http://virtualpoona.blogspot.com/2007/07/bus-ted.html

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  20. Dear Nupur,
    I think your film was terrific. You've managed to capture on film all those moments of tension, discomfort, anger, disgust, fear and even self pity that a girl goes thru in such a situation.

    I've encountered so many guys like him in my life. Their faces are perfectly impassive but their hands have an agenda all of their own. Even while he was just standing next to the old lady, it was obvious that this guy meant trouble but there was no way the girl could've gotten up and slapped him, based only on a gut instinct.

    To all those people who don't get why she didn't just do anything about it, it's not that simple. There are many social, psychological and emotional reasons for that and maybe you just need to be an average young girl on the street to know that. Life however, does make you tough and the next time someone harrases this girl (and somebody will), for sure she'll do something about it.

    Good job Nupur!

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  21. Hello all...
    this is for prynk...
    The whole point of her not doing anything is the point...
    for a woman who watches this it might make her realize and take action the next time she is in a situation like the one on the bus.
    Like I said before... it is the silence that must be questioned...
    if i had the girl do something and create a scene in reality there would be hardly any questions raised. The whole point is to provoke the audience to feel and act.
    To not do anything is reality... something I don't agree with... but it is reality for many women out there. I know it's been mine, and that's why the script goes the way it does!

    And for everyone else...
    thank you all for your comments and responses. It's so nice to see that people are watching and reacting!

    And someone else wanted to know about the film program here...
    you can visit
    www.srishtiblr.org
    or write to
    michael@srishti.ac.in

    Once again thank you all!

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