Today, the Supreme Court quashed the rape case filed against filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar by actor Preeti Jain. The actor reportedly wanted to marry and settle down and felt that the case was delaying her marriage. Rape is a serious charge to level against someone; the crime is horrific, its scars permanent and the battle against it arduous. It subjects both the alleged rapist and the victim to merciless public scrutiny, social censure and condemnation, which the latter obviously does not deserve. Eight years ago, in 2004, when Preeti had filed a case against the director, she had alleged that he had raped her 15 times. I remember wondering why any woman who was raped once would, instead of lodging a complaint immediately and bringing the rapist to book, return to the alleged rapist and render herself vulnerable to repeated assault. It seemed more like a trade-off gone wrong, a bargain that had left one side empty-handed. There are enough stories of gullible young girls with stars in their eyes, who are lured by the glitz of stardom into getting trapped by the casting couch. Few are those who actually manage to bag substantial roles in films and fewer those, who, after being cheated, when their mentors go back on their words, decide to teach them a lesson for being short-changed. Sex, in a lot of these cases, remains consensual as long as both parties adhere to the terms and conditions. The moment the promises are broken, the dreams shattered and reality sinks in, the perception and nature of the relationship undergo a drastic change.
After doggedly pursuing the case for eight long years, for which Preeti received support from quite a few women’s groups and activists, it’s ironical that she opted for an out of court settlement with her alleged tormentor. But then, the prospect of matrimony does strange things to women. The house help of a certain actor, who accused him of rape, vanished from her home at her native place somewhere in Konkan and all but stopped pursuing the case, as she too had found a match who was ready to marry her despite the ‘slur’ on her. A rape victim is often advised to marry her abuser, if the latter so proposes, as if his ‘noble’ act can wipe out all the scars and absolve the rapist of the crime – after all, he isn’t leaving his victim high and dry, he’s making a respectable woman out of her. It does not matter if the rape continues on the conjugal bed. The victims, conditioned from the time they were born to think of marriage as the ultimate goal, give in without a murmur. To them, it’s better than an existence where the finger pointing and character assassination never stop. They go on to suffer under the garb of ‘respectability’ but perhaps find keeping up this pretence a less grievous and painful option.
No doubt, it is every woman’s prerogative to choose the way she wants to lead her life and if marriage is more important to her than bringing her alleged harasser to book, so be it, especially, if it helps her move on in the true sense of the word and makes her happy. In fact, Bhandarkar, who was relieved and teary-eyed after the verdict said in an interview today that he would be away from the country for about 12 days, representing India at the Cairo Film Festival. He added, “Renu might be joining me.” By mentioning the wife, the director reiterated that he is, after all, a respectable married man.