Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

1.

The Marital Rape scene in Bhag Milkha Bhag.

Those who think marital rape should remain legal need to watch this movie. The scene is disturbing, conveys the reluctance, fear, humiliation, disgust, anger and helplessness of those who wouldn’t imagine walking out of the situation.

And that is how watching a sexual crime happen should make you feel.

Brat Three was watching the movie too, and I have no idea what she thought or understood… I will have to talk to her… maybe I should tell her that sometimes some people hurt other people and it’s very wrong and should not be tolerated. No review had mentioned this scene – maybe because it happens behind a make shift curtain.

The movie also touches upon another unrecognised crime – Forced Marriages. And how both the crimes-against-women impact men.

So much is conveyed. Why Indian women might see brothers as saviours. How marital rapists live normal lives and set examples for others who have no other way to learn about sex. Why some people might never respect women except their mothers and sisters, not even the women married into their own families.

Edited to add: The only reason why the man could demand that the victim come to him, to be beaten and raped was because he had the social and legal sanction to do so. He felt no guilt, he was offended because she didn’t come as soon as she was called. Any rapist doing this in any other circumstances is unimaginable, but the witnesses in this crime see it as either unfortunate or titillating.

2.

The movie shows Milkha seeing women (or sex with women) as ‘weakness’ (or vice?!) that men may have. Alcohol and lack of discipline could impact a sportsperson’s performance, but relationships?

3.

As soon as the movie finished Brat Three turned to her brother and said, “You should also run like him!” 

IHM: “What about you? Don’t you want to run like him?”

Brat Three: “No, I am a girl… did you see any girls?”

IHM: “Ofcourse girls also run… I must tell you P T Usha’s story! :) :)” (which I must google and read first :( )

Brat Three: I want pani poorie for lunch!!

I had recorded Chak de India and plan to watch it with her today – without saying anymore about whether or not girls can or should run. And I hope somebody decides to make a movie about PT Usha too.

In the meantime Bhag Milkha Bhag is very much a movie worth watching, even though it does not pass Bechdel Test.

Related Posts:

Marital Rape in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: Why We Need To Talk About It?l

“Instituting the idea of marital rape raises the specter of a man going for long periods without sex even though he’s married!”

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor.

What do you think of these doubts regarding recognition of marital rape as a crime?

Sex Education has nothing to do with Blue Films.

68 thoughts on “Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

  1. Loved it IHM. Flawed movie, but still has plenty of positives that made me appreciate it much more. I was going to write of it myself :) This key point has been brushed aside (regarding Marital Rape) by most of the critics. And although I was a bit taken aback by the part of relationship ruining it for Milkha (which I assume is Milkha’s perspective to be fair) – it didn’t demonize her for it,

    I think credit goes to Prasoon Joshi who is much more responsive and open to feminist perspective than (ref: http://www.firstpost.com/living/prasoon-joshi-calls-lord-krishna-biggest-eve-teaser-of-gopis-at-jlf-602396.html) the average Bollywood writers. Not perfect, but within limitations, he handles the female characters with great maturity. Respect to him.

  2. Thanks for the review. Had planned to watch it this weekend, but had to postpone. May be sometime this weekend. And I hope Chak De indeed makes Brat Three want to run and play just like boys. :-)

  3. What is sad is that some of the people with whom I discussed the movie, felt that the marital rape scene and the scene of Milkha with the daughter of the australian coach (I forgot her name) were uncalled for.. They felt that the scenes didn’t make it a family movie, and had to keep kids away.

    These are kids as old as 15-16. :(

    I believe these scenes were important, because they represent as much evil the society faces as the communal riots and arrogance from seniors.. I believe the idea that if we don’t share it with teens, then they will be less aware of them as problems.

    ABout the australia fiasco, I think he tells her that it is his fault and not his. He personally doesn’t think of them as vices, but believes that it will affect his performance as a sportsperson. He just doesn’t want to deviate from the training in general. (At least that is what I think, it may not be what the character or writer may have thought)

    Overall a wonderful movie to watch though

    • “They felt that the scenes didn’t make it a family movie, and had to keep kids away.”
      I’m amazed that people feel that these scenes make this a non-family movie, while lots of “comedies” have sleazy humor (if you can call it that) and suggestive innuendoes and they are hits with the whole family attending. Apparently “sleaze” makes a family movie, but realistic depiction of love or social ills make them uncomfortable.

    • “These are kids as old as 15-16.”

      Well some parents have 30+ year old KIDS who don’t understant much of the social evils happening around around them or the ‘crimes’ that they commit in marriage.

      “I believe these scenes were important, because they represent as much evil the society faces as the communal riots and arrogance from seniors.. I believe the idea that if we don’t share it with teens, then they will be less aware of them as problems.”

      I believe that such incidents should be discussed with society at large and not just teens. Great to see a film-maker put them up for discussion on such a public forum!

    • Restitution of conjugal rights Act was instituted in 1880s in colonial India to make the wife beaters and those who abandoned wives and families to return home and pay child support by living at home and going to work.

      Women used it to ask for support because once the man left the woman and kids his family would put them on the street. Whereas, men used the same law to bring back wives who refused to live with them because they beat them and maltreated them, to the extent even forcing child wives to live with them. In 1884 twenty two year old Rukmabai refused to consummate her marriage solemnized at the age of eleven to Dadaji Bhikaji, she preferred prison time than go with Bhikaji. She spent a night in prison and later the case was withdrawn because the nationalist cultural elite found Indian woman in the prison could set wrong precedent and encourage women for more defiance.
      http://tinyurl.com/k7ku8pq

      No one should be forced to cohabit with anyone. Fifty years later this is the story once a woman is thrown out of her marital home after maltreatment she files 498A coz’ that is the only criminal remedy that was available until PWDVA 2005, a civil remedy. As 498A is NC the man immediately filed restitution of conjugal rights- stating I want her to stay with me it is she who has left me. In either was woman is at the loss, first she is thrown out of her home and then she is accused of abandonment.

      If people can’t get along then they should part with dignity and take care of the responsibility towards the progeny they happily or unhappily created.

      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      • im not sure what you are talking about. But just that the link i provided actually proves that given a chance, women in india are morally no way better than men. its just that 50 years back, men had chances, now women have all the facilities in law to look the man in the name of marriage

        To be precise, if husband ask money from wife, it is dowry, but if wife asks it, it is her right and maintenance legally

        Simlarly, if man cohabit frocefully with wife, its called marital rape. but if wife does that husband is arrested and termed criminal

        Call it great indian law
        As simple as that.

        • “Simlarly, if man cohabit frocefully with wife, its called marital rape”: It’s NOT. Husbands are exempt from rape of the wife in Indian law.

          “but if wife does that husband is arrested and termed criminal”: Erm, what? Are you trying to say that if the wife forcibly has sex with the husband then the husband is arrested? He’s not because, again, he is exempt from raping her by Indian law.

          Dowry and child maintenance/ alimony are not comparable. Dowry is money given at the start of the marriage, without it being earned in any way. Alimony is intended to split money and assets that are jointly created in a marriage. Child maintenance is for the man’s children (divorced fathers are still fathers). If anything, maintenance and alimony laws should be gender neutral so that the financially weaker party (man or woman) still gets their share of jointly created wealth and assets.

          There are biased laws which are no good (biased towards both men and women) but your examples don’t hold up.

        • Sunil, your link doesn’t prove anything except maybe the ill-informed opinions a lot of people have on the subject.

          1. As per the below link, “Men can also file for restitution of conjugal rights. However, even if the court orders in favour of the person who is seeking restitution, there is no compulsion on the other partner to cohabit with his or her spouse. If the person who has been directed by the court to resume cohabitation with his or her spouse refuses or fails to do so, the only remedy available to the aggrieved spouse is to file for divorce. Failure to cohabit with a partner after a restitution order by the court is, by itself, sufficient ground for divorce. However, the law does not lay down any punishment for failure to cohabit.”
          http://www.manushi-india.org/pdfs_issues/PDF%20140/03%20kyr%2024-25.pdf
          It doesn’t get much clearer than this. As you can see, your entire argument falls apart. The only reason I can think of why the husband was arrested in the link you have provided is probably because he was using it as a pretext to get dowry. If dowry was not in the picture, he would most likely not have been arrested.

          2. Women may not be more moral than men…no reason why they should be. But the fact remains that a majority of people being exploited, harassed oppressed, degraded in our country simply because of their gender even today are still women. That is a state of affairs that needs to change.

          3. Carvaka has responded very well to your point equating dowry and alimony. A robber who robs from a bank and an employee who works at a bank both get money from the bank, but only a very misguided person will use this as an excuse to equate the two. However, having said this, I’d reiterate Bhagwad’s point from an earlier post that the maintenance laws should be made gender-neutral rather than being skewed completely against men.

          4. It is rape if one person has sex with another person without their consent. Given this, do you not think that it is a cause for extreme shame that marital rape is still not considered as a crime in our country? Great Indian law indeed…

        • well said satish

          only two points

          – not sure why you are saying RCR here. Let me assure you, a woman who has deserted matrimonial home for what ever could be the reason, and when receives RCR from husband, in 99.99 case wife will counter case 498a and DV on husband and his entire family. So RCR is futile to indian men when wife want to dump her husband. may be you need some reality check.

          – but in this very case, in case the scene was to be reversed and husband is the aggrieved party, do you think he has any remedy in law to cover up himself from wife from domestic violenec he is facing?

          – lastly, no i dont think mariral rape law is actually required at least in indain society. because, we have good chances to nail the husband with current laws be it 498a or DVA

          – women now a days misuse the law only to extort husband from money than fight for justice and rights. so when the existing laws have been misused, no use in giving indian women another law which they cannot really execute with enough responsibility.

          – ITS NOT WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT. IT MATTERS WHETHER YOU DESERVE IT OR NOT.

        • The number of generalizations you have made out number the ones woman make on this page and yet get accused of being “man haters.”
          RCR is being discussed because you brought it up here.
          And about if men have legal recourse against domestic violence, yes they do have they can file case against the abuser through CPC, like always.
          DG

  4. Many people have recommended this movie to me but nobody talked about this rape scene. Outlook says that it is an OK movie.

    Good to read that Brat 3 asked for pani poories! Let her enjoy life!

  5. One more thing that I noted was – when the lady who is a swimming champion approaches him, he steps away, but makes it very clear to her that he doesn’t mean it to be an insult to her, and that it is his struggle with himself. He doesn’t belittle her, which she too recognizes, though she clearly regrets his No.

    I like the fact that the script here recognises the fact that a woman can desire a man, and that it’s natural, nothing to laugh at. And the fact that Milkha is shown as respectful of this at the same time that he is saying No, that he apologises for any hurt that he may have caused.

    Some other thoughts in this vein – the young Milkha is shown coming to Delhi all by himself. While we know very well that being a male is not really protection against rape, one does wonder about ‘what if he had been a girl?’ :(

    Marital rape scene – it struck me that the sister’s husband who rapes her is shown as a person who was quite civil to his in-laws at good times – he gives up his seat to his FIL – he is happy with his wife when Milkha wins at the end; the sister has a life that could be deemed ordinary by most Indian standards. Which makes the marital rape all the more reprehensible. Ordinary, everyday blokes think nothing of it. It does not have to be black villain to rape his wife. That is the tragedy.

  6. All our cultural heroes are men for a change My daughter wants to become Mary Kom and not Miss India.
    Rape especially within marriage is still a huge Taboo and I could see a lot of married people squirm in their seats in the hall during the scene. Instead of hushing it up Its time we break the silence and tell our children the rights and the wrongs of life, academics, sports and most importantly human relationships.

  7. GB on facebook: My other problem with the movie was Sonam’s character. Man changing because of the love of a good woman is such a stereotype and it makes a lot of women think they can ‘reform’ the men they are in relationships with when they clearly have serious issues. She was also the giggly, dancing with children kind of flimsy heroine who had nothing else to do in the film. In real life, it was another male who persuaded Milkha to give up his rough ways – so this was just a convenient stereotype to latch on to. Was also pretty annoyed with the lecherous looks Milkha’s athlete friend throws on those white female athletes – it was supposed to be comic but it disgusted me. And those women are actually shown as encouraging it. I don’t think that will be the response in a professional arena like the Olympics when that won’t be the response even on the street.

    • Very valid criticisms. That said, about Sonam’s character – I think they have to balance between Milkha’s version (which I assume would be the one that confirms the gender roles and all) and fiction at the same time without making less mainstream with all the nach-gaana-romance stuff that our audiences can’t do without.

      The point regarding “loose” foreign women stereotype bothered me too. But it does also have contrasting moments like what sandhya mentioned. Wish they could do without all these parts myself, yes. Overall the positive aspects (regarding portrayal of women that is) overshadows such irritating parts, at least in my opinion.

  8. I haven’t seen the movie yet but point 2 urged me to comment. In those times, probably even now to a certain extent, a lot of men paid to sleep with women. Relationships, romance was actively discouraged for so-called respectable women. These men who turned to brothels for their needs would have also contracted STDs or had the potential to. Hence ‘women’ was seen as a vice or weakness.

    It is quite sad, the history. Women being seen as a vice is another side effect of the objectification of women and beastification(just coined it) of men.

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  10. Well with these types of scenes, we can atleast turn to the kids and sy this is disgusting, this is bad, don’t ever do it, don’t condone it, dont tolerate it. irrespective of if the law says it’s a crime or not, intheir mind it should be something that is not tolerated. so i’m ok with scenes like this as long as it’s not glorified . what i cant abide in any movie is the ugly hip gyrating terrible lyrics item songs, — worthless value to the film. If they must have a song why cant it be a melodious number in some beautifyl locale – with excellent photography :-) isnt that much more sosothing than a half dressed women gyrate painfully to crappy loud music for 5 min???
    but theN i’m old and slowly losing touch with the next gen I guess .

  11. Surbhi Sukhija – on facebook: I was just glad the scene on marital rape was even there – no other movie has ever shown it. I believe Rakesh Mehra has his head and heart in the right place. Maybe he or someone else will build on it further, let’s hope. Also. Just like ‘Vicky Donor’ made the word ‘sperm’ acceptable and showed sperm donation in a positive light, maybe this scene on marital rape will make people at least realise it is possible. However, I still hope someone takes it up as a topic and shows a seemingly ‘normal’ everyday husband doing it, not someone who is villainous on every count (since that will take away the impact and make marital rape look like only one of the ‘bad’ things a really bad guy does).

  12. @Indian Homemaker: I read about this issue and one of the arguments given against incrimination of marital rape is the difficulty in proving it. I thought about it a lot but still cannot get my head around the idea whether how would you prove the sanctity of an accusation made in this case. What if there are no visible physical bruises ? How do you even judge if the complainant had or had not given consent at the time of the sexual act.
    When asked by a journalist, one of the senior activists said that, “given the power structure engaged in a marriage, when a wife says it was not consensual, it has to be given primacy.” This is bull’s stinky crap. How can you simply assume all women innocent? If the Dowry law could be misused, this law could easily become next the golden goose.
    I am all up for incriminating all kinds of sexual assaults including marital rape. It just seems to me as very complicated to prove. Please give your views on this. How should the law be framed so that it safeguards innocence in all cases. Thanks !

    • And what about cases like this one in the movie, where there are witnesses ? It seems some viewers described the scene as a ‘sex scene between the couple’.
      What about cases where a woman is married to more than one brother like in Haryana. Does she need to prove something?
      Or a woman who is a minor.
      Or where there are injuries, and I have blogged about two such cases. I think if the crime is acknowledged, the details can be worked out.

      • your quote
        “What about cases where a woman is married to more than one brother like in Haryana. Does she need to prove something?
        Or a woman who is a minor.”Unquote

        I think in either of the cases above, the real culprit is either the women, who is into bigamy by marriage to two men at the same time…or parents who marry off their minor girl.

        there needs to be strict laws on who ever indulges in biagmy (either women or men) or parents who marry off their daughter without minority is complete

        without fixing minor problems, you cant jump fixing to major problems just of hype and assumptions basis

        • Women who are sold to be ‘married’ to more than one brothers should be accused of being polygamous? And minors are at fault for marrying adults? Should the men who buy these women and adults who marry minors be provided compensation then?

    • @Pallav,
      I think here the argument is to first criminalise it, and fix a punishment for it. Of course it is very complicated to prove. But let me put it this way, today a man can boast on the streets about how he rapes his wife, and the law can’t touch him, despite his proclamation, because IT IS NOT A CRIME .Yet.
      Establishing consent or the lack of it is tricky even in stranger-rape. Still, how is ‘proving the crime is tricky’ ever a valid justification for de-criminalising something that is so clearly wrong.

    • It is also very hard to prove that someone attacked you when you were all alone with no witnesses. So lets decriminalize attacks where no third party is present because it is so hard to prove. After all, you can bring in false charges of people attacking you and misuse the law right?

  13. I haven’t seen BMB yet. Glad they covered the issue of marital rape. You take a away a human being’s dignity, it leaves a hole in your soul.

    Side note – watched Kai Po Che – although overall a decent movie, there is one scene where the brother (with anger issues) yanks really hard on his sister’s hair, when she insists on arguing with him about something. The sister later forgives him and gives him a hug! The same guy also batters someone’s car when he thinks the guy is interested in his sister! Like he owns her. Okay, even if we attribute this to be a common mentality (brother owns sister’s honor), why wasn’t the guy arrested??? I hate it when movies show people destroying personal or public property and no one bats a eyelid, let alone treat it as a crime.
    None of the characters in the film find his behavior odd or inexcusable and in the end this anger part gets glossed over because he does some wonderful things for a kid.
    I read this book a while ago and don’t remember if Chetan Bhagat actually made this character this way or this was something tweaked in the movie.

      • Violence toward outsiders is not taken seriously and violence toward family seems to be invisible and not even worth talking about (marital rape is between husband and wife, beating a child is between parent and child).
        What we need more than a change is attitude and awareness is strict law enforcement. When a person is arrested for assaulting someone, he is highly unlikely to repeat it.

  14. Off the track though I happened to watch Milkha Singh’s interview. On being asked how he is so fit even in this age, his reply was that it is because of three reasons.a) he jogs everyday, goes to gym twice a week and plays golf. b) he doesnt overeat. c) he doesn’t keep company of older people because they keep cribing about their kids particularly DIL. He even adviced people to not interfere in the life of younger generation :)

  15. In reference to the 2nd point in the post, it has been common practice whereby the members of the Indian cricket team have been refused to have their wife or girlfriend with them while on an overseas tour. The reason cited for this was to focus the concentration of the players on their performance (on the cricket field).

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  17. I haven’t seen the movie, but this stood out to me “The movie shows Milkha seeing women (or sex with women) as ‘weakness’ (or vice?!) that men may have.”

    Methinks it plays into the whole ‘women make men weak’ and ‘men can’t control themselves around women’ kind of thinking.

  18. Hey, just saw your blog- it’s great. Love this post.
    Bold and beautiful. And the talk about no girls in the movie, it’s a nice observation.
    I am very inspired by your blog. thefadingdarkness.blogspot.in
    It’s my blog- on women. It’s new, and I hope it well, goes good. It’s a topic close to hearts of people actually dedicated to getting justice.
    Do follow it if you like it. Following you :)
    Great post, once again.

  19. MARITAL RAPE

    Teen hacks father to death for violent sex with mother
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Teen-hacks-father-to-death-for-violent-sex-with-mother/articleshow/21694756.cms?intenttarget=no

    BHOPAL: A 15-year-old boy, annoyed with his father for subjecting his mother to repeated violent sex, hacked him to death early Wednesday morning in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh.

    The deceased, Hari Prasad, 46, was forcing his wife for sex for the fourth consecutive time on Tuesday night and when she refused he started abusing her, which infuriated her son Dharmendra, said police. The incident took place in Satwas village under Damini police station of the district.

    Damini police station in charge Arvind Tiwari said, “Hari Prasad was a habitual drinker and used to sexually torture his wife on a regular basis.”

    “Police said that Prasad’s wife had returned from a religious function around midnight but he compelled her for sex repeatedly. She managed to escape and went to the adjoining room where her children were sleeping,” Tiwari said. “Dharmendra, who was in the room with his two sisters aged 14 and 19 attacked his father with an axe killing him on the spot,” Tiwari said.

    “With the help of his sisters the accused dumped the body outside their village early morning. The matter was reported to us by the village kotwar and subsequent investigations revealed the facts,” Tiwari told TOI.

    “The deceased also used to harass his daughters and often abuse them,” he added. “We have booked Dharmendra for murder and his two sisters as accomplices for helping him dump the body,” Tiwari said.

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  22. I had the most disturbing experience while watching BMB.

    In the film, as the two teens sharing the shelter at the relief camp with Milkha, his sister and her husband, began to giggle seeing the forced sex, there were spurts of laughter from different sections of the movie hall… Then there were noises that sounded like cheering and teasing at the same time, finally followed by munching and rustle of chip packets indicating that the normal course of movie-watching was quickly resumed.

    Is rape so common that we don’t even see the difference in rape and consensual sex? Are we so giddy with the power of patriarchy that it has turned us into pinheads who find the idea of torturing women funny? FUNNY??

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