Social disparity to blame for molestation, rape: Javed Akhtar

By Saket Suman  

Jaipur (IANS) : Celebrated Indian poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar on Sunday rebuffed claims that Westernisation leads to rapes and other crimes against women.

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In response to a question from the audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), Akhtar said Indian actors going to Hollywood or some popstar “performing in Bengaluru” does not lead to molestation and rape.

Incidents of molestation were reported in Bengaluru on New Year’s eve, following which a concert by French DJ David Guetta was cancelled, first in Bengaluru and then in Mumbai.

“Westernisation in no way leads to such incidents,” Akhtar said. “It is because of two basic reasons: social segregation and economic divide.”

The 72-years-old lyricist reminded the audience that a vast majority of young men living in towns do not even talk for more than five minutes with a girl until they reach the age of 25.

“This is how we define our ‘sabhyata’ (culture).

“How would somebody, who has never even spoken to a girl, appreciate her and understand that she is something more than her body? For him, it is only body and lust.”

This segregation of the society, according to Akhtar, results in an “unwanted temperament” among young men and that is the reason for such incidents.

“The other reason is the economic divide. What happened to the girl in Delhi does not reflect lust or want for sex. It showed anger, frustration and how much of venom they had against the society. They did not just rape her, it was brutality.”

It is because there is an economic divide.

“People come from small towns, live in shabby conditions and they see the rich and affluent leading luxurious life. Added to it is their previous experience — segregation. They have not talked properly to a girl ever.”

Akhtar contended that the “future definitely belongs to women, not to men”. He also warned that blaming everything on Westernisation was not the solution to the problem.

“If you do wrong diagnosis of the disease of your country, then you can never get rid of it. You have to accept the real reasons that lead to such incidents.”

The session, “After the Angry Young Man, the Traditional Woman, What?” was one of the most awaited sessions at the 10th edition of JLF and drew a packed audience.

Among other issues, he shared his perspective on the “adarsh bharatiya nari” (the ideal Indian woman) as depicted in Hindi cinema.

“We have seen that there used to be two women in our films earlier: one, the ‘adarsh bharatiya nari’, who would do all things good, respect his husband and so on and so forth; and then, there would be the other one, who did everything that the audience wanted to see.

“After a husband would come home drunk from a ‘mujra’, the ‘adarsh bharatiya nari’ was expected to remove his shoes and provide him comfort. But this definition is now changing. Women in our films are more progressive today.”

Praising movies like “Piku”, “Pink” and “Dil Dhadakne Do”, he said the roles of women in such films truly portray the changing social status quo in India.

“To establish that you are empowered, you do not need to smoke a cigarette onscreen or boast to sleep with a number of men from various nationalities. Empowerment doesn’t mean this.

“The role that Katrina played in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ truly represents an empowered woman. When she is in a swimsuit, you are not looking at her body or figure but at her as a teacher, and it is both played and portrayed brilliantly,” he said.

The celebrated lyricist expressed his disappointment over item songs, saying they simply mean, “they are not related to the movie”.

Among the most respected Indian poets, lyricists and script writers, Akhtar is a man of all seasons.

He is a recipient of the Padma Shri (1999), Padma Bhushan (2007) and the Sahitya Akademi Award as well as 13 Filmfare Awards.