Take Two

Not the Usual Rape Debate

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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How justice is being served to Madhur Bhandarkar

There are some interesting aspects about Indian society arising from a Mumbai court’s order earlier this week that the police had no business to close charges of rape against Madhur Bhandarkar and that the trial would continue.

This is the story as we know it: before 2001 and Chandni Bar, in which starlet Preeti Jain (now Pretti Jaiin) had a supporting role, Bhandarkar was a relative nobody in Bollywood. From 1999 to 2004, using the inducement of casting her in a leading role in his forthcoming films, according to Pretti, he had sex 16 times with her. He went on to become an avant-garde director (at least by Bollywood standards), she remained a starlet. When she was convinced he had no intention of keeping his promise, her rape complaint followed.

The most obvious question is, can you call it rape if there was consent on the victim’s part? Sex by false promise, repulsive as it might be, is not equal to force. And take away coercion, or active force, from rape, then what do you have? The Indian Penal Code’s definition of rape has nothing to say about false promises.

In many ways, this case is treated unlike any other rape case. For example, it is incumbent on the part of the media to keep the identity of victims secret. The Times of India this week carried an interview with Pretti where the paper asked her questions like, would she consider marrying Bhandarkar. How many times have we felt outraged when the same question was asked by a judge of a rape victim?

Assuming that rape, as we understand it, did not happen, it is still perfectly understandable why Pretti took this route. If she had merely said that Bhandarkar slept with her by trickery, no one would care. At an emotional level, to be tricked into sex is probably just a degree or two below rape. What she has successfully managed using the rape charge is to get Bhandarkar into the black hole that characterises the Indian system. Once you are trapped in it, no one, including your accuser, can free you. The police have maintained that there is no evidence of rape,  but it doesn’t matter. Bhandarkar is well and truly screwed. In an odd way, it is justice. Even if he gets acquitted, the process is going to be the punishment. That is the revenge of Pretti Jain.