Friday, January 29, 2010

I don't find that funny

A chance conversation with my mother yesterday brought up an interesting, and potentially important, issue. I had asked her if she enjoyed watching 'Three Idiots', and was surprised by her negative critique. Amongst other points, to which I don't agree to, she complained about the thoughtless usage of the word 'balatkar' which is the Hindi word for 'rape'.

I am a 21st century woman living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of India. I am a liberal and broad minded non-feminist, and can digest a good joke, even when it's on me. Though I don't agree with my mother often, in this case I have to admit that she is correct.

My mother said that 'balatkar' is one of the few words, that cannot be used in just any context. It carries a lot of weight and many serious connotations. 'Balatkar' - The word generally elicits deep emotions such as shock and pain. The word conveys the alleged victim's misfortune, the sense of being violated and the possibility of being ridiculed and alienated by the society. It also conveys the seriousness of the crime and forces people to consider it with the force of their conscience. In such a case, spinning a joke around the word somehow trivializes the impact of the word and the meaning that it conveys.

Let me clarify myself. I thoroughly enjoyed watching 'Three Idiots', including the portion in question. Or so I kept telling myself. After my conversation with my mother, during which we argued inconclusively, I looked back and traced my reactions during the movie. And yes, I had to admit, I had felt a twinge of discomfort while the portion in question was being screened. I don't know why, but I guess I am not ready to joke with the word 'balatkar' as yet... I don't have the stomach for it. Also, since I am a woman, I feel the ramification of this word a bit too strongly. In all, the word was like a thorn that pricked uncomfortably, and which unconsciously I decided to overlook, since the rest of the movie was fantastic.

And looks like I am not alone. I watched the movie at PVR, one of the best halls in the city. Fortunately, the crowd there is elite and well-behaved. My mother, who lives in Dehradun, watched it in the best hall that's available there, a run of the mill movie theatre. She described the crowd consisting of youngsters, mainly students, with boys and girls in equal strength. During the scene in question, the boys jeered and cheered uproariously, while the girls smiled and shifted uncomfortably. I am sure if movie-makers were to poll youngsters on their choice of humour, they'll find that girls don't find jokes about rapes and molestations as funny as their male counterparts.

I am not clubbing all men together. I am sure there are many sensitive souls out there. But let's face the truth. Movie makers have been including titillating rape and molestation sequesnces in movies all through the ages because the audience likes it and the hero gets to justify his existence.

I remember that as a kid I used to be horrified of the mention of the words 'rape' or 'balatkar'. Somehow down the years I have made myself immune to their impact, frankly because my psyche cannot bear the emotional impact of even hearing about such incidents. A few years ago when I watched the supposed 'rape' scene in the laugh-riot Golmaal, I felt distictly uncomfortable. But I told myself that this is supposed to be funny! Take it easy! Laugh! All through the years this is what I have told myself time and again. As a result, tomorrow if I watch such a movie again, I might not even blink.

But the question is, is this good entertainment? Should I have to condition myself in order to enjoy 'popular' humour? If I don't find something naturally funny, is there something wrong with me?

I don't just speak for myself. I am sure there are many women out there who feel uncomfortable at the trivialization of such words. Aamir Khan surely has studied the psyche of children and young adults. I really admire him and am his fan. But I wonder how much really he understands the psyche of women...

I really wish movie makers in the future utilize intelligent humour. Resorting to such simplistic tricks to tickle the rib somehow looks cheap...