A week from now, the Delhi High Court will decide the fate of Leslee Udwin ’s controversial film — India’s Daughter which is about the 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old student. Udwin speaks to HT on her expectations from the judgment. Arguing her case, Udwin has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the ban.
How did you approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue and what are your expectations?
I made this documentary to showcase the rare and admirable response of India’s forward-thinking men and women to the heinous crime that took place on the streets of Delhi. But I was deeply hurt when the ban was imposed on the film. No one bothered to approach me and know my side of the story. I had taken all the requisite permissions and never went against the law.
PM Modi comes across as someone who takes the matter of gender inequality very seriously. I still remember his Independence Day speech where he made a strong pitch for gender equality. I wrote a letter to Modi urging him to reconsider the ban. The film is a mirror of the statements he has made about offences against women. The letter was routed through a senior BJP leader. I am waiting to hear from him. And since the ban has become something of a crisis for India, not only on a national but also on an international level, I am sure the prime minister will make a statement on the ban himself.
How do you intend to keep the focus on gender inequality and sexual violence going?
I have now decided to take the India’s Daughter campaign forward by touring countries and especially meeting the education ministers to urge them to include gender equality in the formal syllabus so that gender biases are rooted out. I am convinced that when you have such strong patriarchal controls choking equality and suffocating civilised values, then only education can change things.
Despite the ban, millions of Indians have seen your documentary on YouTube…
I am overwhelmed. However, they have seen the BBC’s cut version which excludes an important global perspective on rape and sexual violence. The ban caused the BBC to bring the broadcast forward (I didn’t even know about this) so that was the version that was leaked on Youtube. I urge them to wait and watch the uncut version, which has the statistics on rape from across the world, including the UK, USA and Canada.
How do you react to the allegations that you targeted India through your documentary?
My intention was never to target India alone. I am pained that I am accused of targeting India whereas I wanted to showcase the collective will of Indians who poured out on the streets spontaneously and created an example for the rest of the world to emulate. It was not the rape but the phenomenal response to the rape that made me take up the issue.
Will India’s Daughter go global?
It has gone global. It has been shown in six countries already with several countries to follow. It will soon be telecast in Pakistan. My distributors are in talks with several other countries and negotiations are in different stages. I will continue this fight against sexual violence globally; more films are in the pipeline.