‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 2017. In Bangalore. New India.

I have this list of movies that I think are a must- see for my kids while they are teenagers. (ie while I can still ‘persuade’ them to do so J). This list ranges from The Burning Train and Sholay –because they can’t go through life as an Indian and not know the references to ‘Kitne aadmi the’. Obviously. And goes as far as Raja Hindustani and Mohabbatein, to understand the trauma my generation suffered from having to see such movies which were then super hit films……. ( I use the ffwd button a lot but even after paring it down to 15 minutes they are both still a torture!)

To Kill a Mockingbird has been on the list too and we finally saw it on Sunday 1st Jan 2017. Of course it is an amazing film and it’s not just that everyone says so. I also had memories of positive feelings towards the film. So we sit down to watch and of course the girls want to know what it’s about. I tell them that the plot can’t be divulged as a two line blurb and it is more of a process. They roll their eyes at that but settle down.

Then began the revelation of a re-viewing of the film for me after almost 2 decades. As soon as the movie started I did the rapid mental calculation that anyone over 40 does when we see someone who is around our age. Is he/ she is actually older and looking younger (damn!) or younger but looks older (haha). So I figured that given the age of the kids and the reading glasses, Gregory Peck was supposed to be in his early 40s max. But of course his body language and behaviour makes him seem so much older. I did not remember the lovely Maude who is the front door neighbour and seems to be single. Wonder why nothing happened with that….

sin to kill a mockingbird.jpg

Scout is just as brash and forthright and totally loveable as I remembered her. Defiantly in shorts, punching boys at lunch break, challenging her older brother’s diktats and really challenging norms of what was expected from her as a ‘good girl’. She participates in all the rough and tumble such as rolling down the street inside a tyre tube and going up to Boo Radley’s house. I suppose being motherless also gave her some concessions, since a single father could not be expected to raise her to be a lady.

This is a movie from 1962, when things were already starting to change but what a positive role model for young girls! She prefers reading to sewing, running around to being in the house and although her real name is Jean Louise, she is known as Scout.

When Aunt Alexandra tells Scout to act like a lady and wear a dress so she can “be a ray of sunshine in [her] father’s lonely life.” Scout retorts that she can “be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well.”

gregory-peck

Out of curiosity I googled feminist reviews of the movie and it seems to have spawned long papers and thesis on the topic, so I shall say no more and if you are interested you can read more here:

http://ocbookshoppe.com/blog/gender-and-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

http://doesthispassthebechdeltest.tumblr.com/post/38329091762/to-kill-a-mockingbird-1962-dir-robert-mulligan

http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1176&context=etd

As the movie progresses, it speaks out against racism very openly of course but on one occasion , which I did not remember from my earlier viewing, Atticus speaks out in defence of the young white girl’s attempts to explore her sexuality and blames poverty and ignorance rather than her desires. That’s a pretty powerful speech right there !

The one thing that really did not feel good was that although the man was being defended since he was a victim of racism, the girl who had to defend her claim to being raped was treated to a humiliating interrogation and publicly made out to be a liar. Although our sympathies are meant to be with the black man wrongly accused, it is sad that such attacks on women are often made out to be lies and the men become the victims in some twisted way.

mockingbird

Just as I was thinking about that and writing this up, came news of the horrible mass molestation of women during New Year in Bangalore. There are photographs on the front pages of the newspapers but the court and police were said to be waiting for one individual to come forward and register a complaint??

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/bangalore-molestation-womens-safety-violence-/story/1/14904.html

And now the men are claiming to be victimized and some #notallmen is being used. To make matters worse, the Home Minister says “these things happen”. Perhaps they do, obviously they seem to be happening, but at some point so did Sati and so did female infanticide by burying the baby alive and so do dowry deaths and child marriage and rape.

But is the role of the government and the elected representative to just shrug their collective shoulders and say that and be passive?? When will they speak out the next sentence and say “BUT these things must be stopped and we as the government of the people (which includes women) will assure you that this incident will never be repeated in New India ? This is our responsibility and duty.”

Nirbhaya was in 2012. Now it is 2017 and it seems like nothing has changed. How much longer will the women of India, my generation and our daughters have to wait to hear that second sentence being added?

son-behave

 

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