Insaaf Ka Tarazu
Director: B.R. Chopra
When this film came out in 1980 it was a shocking film. Sort of the Straw
Dogs of India. It portrayed a brutal and for Bollywood graphic rape and what
came after. It was especially disturbing in that the victim was one of Bollywood's
biggest stars and taking on this role was quite controversial. Not that Zeenan
Aman ever dodged controversy - in one of her earliest roles she played a
pot smoking runaway in Hare Rama Hare Khrisna in 1971. Since then she had
become a huge star straddling roles in which she was the heroine but also
had the touch of the vamp about her. She was sexy and she showed it and if
she had to pick up a gun and shoot someone she would. She and Amitabh co-starred
in a bunch of excellent films.
Not to be unfair but India has become known as Rapist Central. The true stories
that come out of that country are horrifying - gang rapes seem to be common
- and in the rare times men are charged they usually go free. As the male
defense lawyer in this film says after denigrating her profession as a model
as an open invitation to rape - a true Indian woman would never go public
like this and shame her family, herself, the men. Another well-known Indian
film was made in 1994 in which a woman is gang raped called Bandit Queen
and she is so shamed that she becomes a dacoit (outlaw) and kills them all.
It was a Parallel film. Forty years after this film rape is still a serious
issue in India but now it is getting more publicity. This film though simplistic
and melodramatic in that Bollywood way is powerful in condemning it and all
the social taboos around it.
Bharti (Zeenat) is a popular model and lives with her younger sister (Padmini
Kolhapure, who was fifteen at the time and went on to a fine career) and
has a boyfriend (Deepak Parashar) who adores her. She also has a wealthy
admirer (Raj Babbar) who wants her and when he can't get it he rapes her.
She reports it, they go to trial even though her female attorney (Simi Garewal)
tells her as an attorney I have to advise you that it will be like being
raped a second time and there will be no justice but as a woman go for it
girl. The trial is pure histrionics from everyone - great dialogue, speeches
from one and all and you can guess the outcome. But that isn't the end of
this tale. Good acting all around from the three actresses but also from
the swine but effective defense lawyer (Shreeram Lagoo) and the judge (the
wonderful Iftekhar who with his 300 plus credits seems to show up in every
pre-1980 film I see).
There were only a few songs - apparently a rape film doesn't seem appropriate
to music - and fortunately none during the trial either - though it might
have been fun if they had sung their speeches instead. But his was a serious
film - not even any comic relief - about a deadly serious subject. Needless
to say, the ending is Bollywood in all its corny glory. Directed by one of
the big guns in Bollywood - B.R. Chopra who had his own production company
and brought on his younger brother, Yash Chopra, who went on to be another
even bigger gun.
I recall walking out of the theater during the rape in Straw Dogs - it made
me ill - and I put this one off for years. I am not sure I am glad I finally
saw it, but I saw it.