The ghastly murder of a young girl at a railway station in Chennai, allegedly by a besotted lover who had been stalking her for three months, has once again raised questions about women’s safety and the indifference of the public who remain mute witnesses to such crimes that occur in public places in broad daylight. However, a parallel debate has also begun as to whether cinema should share a part of the blame for the rising spiral of crime, especially against women and young girls; they are often the target of misguided youths who believe what they witness on movie screens that it is perfectly acceptable for them to indulge in acts like stalking, teasing or even physically harassing young girls.
So, does cinema glorify stalking? Unfortunately, the answer to this poser is ‘yes’ to a large extent. What is even more regrettable is that it is the heroes in films who should be role models to the youth who enact roles wherein they are shown, not just smoking and drinking, but also stalking, getting physically intimate and even attacking the heroine and all these scenes get cleared by the censor board. The most unfortunate part is that after undergoing all this torment and torture, the heroine too gets smitten, and thereafter, romance blooms and everything turns hunky dory for the couple who soon set about painting the town red. The message that is sent across to countless numbers of young men is simple: When the object of their infatuation says ‘no’ it actually means ‘yes’, and one only has to persevere to succeed in such matters of the heart.
The wannabe Romeos also get a feeling that their female counterparts too would have been influenced by the heroines on the screen and are only too willing to let them have their fun, which sadly is never the case. The Chennai murder is not the first where unrequited love turned fatal, nor is it going to be the last. Impressionable minds who are hero worshippers and who are swayed by films, totally fail to appreciate the difference between reel and real life.
But then laying the blame at the doorsteps of film makers too can hardly have any salutary effect for the simple reason that those who make films are not in the business of educating people or showing them the right path or advising them to reform if they have gone astray. The basic premise of cinema is to entertain and the main motive is to recover the huge investments and reap a tidy profit if possible. They faithfully display all the caveats that are mandatory, and then go on to portray characters as per their script, caring a fig for social norms. As a matter of fact, film makers have often defended themselves by asserting that what they depict on the screen is actually based on incidents and occurrences in everyday life, and that it is the society that has to change and not cinema, which too is not far from the truth.
It would also be futile to expect leading men in films to put their foot down and refuse to enact scenes of stalking, harassment etc., as they have little say in such matters, and even otherwise would be loathe to accept that they are setting a bad example to their fans. So unless an awareness is created that certain types of behavior are not permissible, and that they are ultra vires, nothing much is going to change. The only deterrent to such violent crimes is the arrest and prosecution of the accused and awarding of exemplary punishment befitting the crime. Blaming films or social media sites is not going to get us anywhere.