Are you feeling disenfranchised? Is everyday sexism bringing you down? Never fear, Bollywood has just the thing for you: the Mardaani anthem. This song from Rani Mukerji’s upcoming film Mardaani hopes to be a rallying cry to women all over India. Its video shows a very sweaty and very angry Mukerji singing angry lyrics like these:
“Aaj se, ab se
aan ko meri, tumko na chune dungi,
Jaan ko chahe challi kardo, maan ko na chune dungi”
To add more impact to this song, (apart for a nose bleed that Mukerji suddenly gets for no apparent reason), the Devi stotram is intercut with the lyrics. Watch the video of the Mardaani Anthem here:
If the anthem and the trailer of Mardaani are any indication, the film is about the exploits of a woman cop, Shivani Shivaji Roy (Mukerji) of Crime Branch, Mumbai, who takes on a human trafficking racket single-handedly. In a recent press interaction, Mukerji was asked if Mardaani is a woman-centric film. The actress replied, ” I think this term woman-centric is a bit strange because we don’t call normal films male-centric. I think we should stop calling a film as male or female centric, it should be a good or a bad film.” It’s a very valid point, but it also raises the question of whether Mardaani is dealing with the very serious issues in its story with the maturity that’s necessary or if it’s hoping to coast on the kudos of making a film with an unconventional woman protagonist.
For instance, Mardaani’s promotional campaign strongly advocates violence by saying girls should learn martial arts in order to protect themselves but doesn’t make any comment about educating boys (and girls) about gender equality. This promotional video claims to teach women self defense techniques (they’re not easy to replicate, by the way) but what about teaching boys that violence against women and treating girls as sex objects are wrong?
The difficult in making films on issues like human trafficking is that it’s very easy for it to become titillating or worse, feed the appetite of the voyeuristic. The video of Mardaani Anthem has visuals from the films where we see teenage girls being sold, molested, tortured and raped. They raise the question of whether what is being shown communicates the horror and the plight of the girls shown onscreen or if these images are being used for shock value. The incidents in the film may be fictional but as all the publicity of Mardaani emphasises, these are very real issues and it’s great that Mardaani is making an effort to bring this seedy underbelly into the spotlight. Perhaps when we finally do see the film, these visuals interspersed over the duration of the entire film will make a different kind of impact. At present, however, it feels uncomfortably like Mardaani is using trauma as a marketing tool. Is showing women and girls being exploited a good way to sell a film? Or do good intentions justify the dubious means?