Aparna Sen Asks Tough Questions About The ‘Rape’ And The Winning Awards
‘Why does a male become a rapist?’ The question has been lingering in the mind of filmmaker Aparna Sen for almost a decade. “The idea came to me first as a virus [he does not remember that it was before or after Nirbhaya, the 2012 Delhi rape and murder case]. Then it became a story with the characters and the situation, ”he said. Now, with The Rapist, Sen has asked a question in the world.
The most important film – or as Variety magazine calls it, “a rich dialogue” – is neutral. Following is Naina, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, a professor of crime in Delhi who survived the rape and brutal assault, while expressing differing views and questioning the legitimacy of the carceral state and the death penalty.
In early October, Rape was first screened at the Busan International Film Festival, and won the prestigious Kim Jiseok Prize and numerous awards. The actor’s 16th film, shot in 27 days in Delhi, in a small window between the first and second deadly waves of the Covid-19.
They finished shooting on April 6; the closure was announced on the 8th. We finished early thanks to our DOP Ayanaka Bose, who was very quick, ”he said, recalling how they all stayed at Leela Palace in Chanakyapuri.
“We often went downstairs for breakfast with some of the hotel guests. Thus, it was not as if we were living in a bubble. We also fired at real shacks for four or five days. We are very fortunate that no one is sick [throughout the shoot]. ”
At 76 years old, Sen is still determined to move, with more ideas, including memory, to sprout. In an email interview, he looks back on his 40-year career as a director, and what made him take the title The Rapist.
The title is powerful.
Of course it is. We didn’t want to hide behind a topic that sounded innocent. However, the context does not say that rapists should be sentenced to death, although that question may come to mind when watching a movie.
The theme is about what happened to three people who changed their lives overnight after a tragic incident. Yes, it is also a test of what makes a person a rapist because no one is born that way.
Are the genes? Is it his nature? Or both? What about our society that turns a lot of men into rapists? Social inequality? Focused patriarchy? Are you jealous of the new, successful woman, and the desire for putting her in her place? It is a very complex story that is told in the film, though not in a clear or underlined way.
Who did you talk to while writing the text?
I spoke with lawyers and activists, but not with rape survivors. I felt that they would not want to revive the experience by talking about it. Two of my female friends, who lead organizations that help abused women, gave me valuable insights.
Anuradha Kapoor, who is in charge of Swayam – and I, of which I am a member – provided me with many things to learn about rape survivors and details of the procedures immediately after the reported rape.
Shamita Dasgupta, who runs Manavi in the US, told me about a new crime called Restorative Justice where the victim and the perpetrator met and talked about the reasons why this latest act was the way it did.
Restorative Justice is not mentioned in my movie, but the information was useful when I was writing certain scenes. For the most part, however, I relied on my own information and observations, which have helped me a lot in the past.
This is the sixth film you have worked with your daughter, Konkona – from Picnic (1989), about 10 years old, to The Rapist. How has your artistic collaboration improved?
There is full trust on both sides. We have the same concept and value systems. This makes it easier for him to understand what I am saying, from the text. And, on the other hand, I know Konkona has a very good sense of proportion, that he knows where to draw a line and will never go over the top.
She’s had a great screen appearance since she was very young. It’s hard to describe exactly how our relationship came to be – I think he listened a lot and listened to me more than I do now! However, he is more mature as a person now and more talented as a player. It is not easy for me to correct him now.
The only problem I had with him before was that he was not comfortable doing nearby scenes. In this case, I told her right away that she would have to get rid of those troubles. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, ‘OK, just look at me!’ And I must say, she gave birth completely.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma