36 years ago, Insaf Ka Tarazu was as bold as Pink
Both courtroom dramas expose society’s vicious attitude towards women who do not conform to the traditional idea of a ‘good woman'.
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This week’s release Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, seeks to examine the patriarchal attitudes of society towards women who have suffered sexual violence.
The 1980 film Insaf Ka Tarazu, directed by BR Chopra, made exactly the same argument; the storyline was different, but there were a few points of convergence.
It’s strange to see that in the interim 36 years, despite the progress women have made in so many ways, the archaic ideas of how "good" women should behave still remain.
Bharti (Zeenat Aman), the protagonist of Insaf Ka Tarazu, is a model and not coy around men. She has a boyfriend, Ashok (Deepak Parashar), so although she is friendly towards rich brat Ramesh (Ramesh Babbar), she does not encourage his romantic overtures.
One day, when he is visiting her on the pretext of showing her pictures of a party he threw for her, she ignores him to take a call from Ashok. Stung, he rapes her brutally.
Instead of staying silent, Bharti decides to take Ramesh to court, in spite of being warned by her lawyer (Simi Garewal) that the process would be tough and humiliating.
Like in Pink, where the character of the young woman who fended off molestation is questioned, in the older film too, Ramesh’s lawyer (Shreeram Lagoo) proves that a woman who models in skimpy clothing must be a slut, and that the act between the two was consensual.
Bharti’s terrified younger sister Neeta (Padmini Kolhapure), who briefly witnessed the rape, is manipulated into testifying against her.Pink is directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.
Bharti loses the case, and undergoes all the shame and suffering she had been warned of. Separated from Ashok, she tries to rebuild her life as a typist in another city.
Two years later, Neeta goes to interview for a job; the potential boss turns out to be Ramesh, who rapes her too. Bharti does not want her sister to go through the same trauma and kills Ramesh. This time she stands in court as a criminal, and strangely enough manages to get justice.
Like Pink, a large chunk of Insaf Ka Tarazu is a courtroom drama, which exposes society’s vicious attitude towards women who do not conform to the traditional idea of a "good woman". “Women like them,” as the villain in Pink says, "deserve what comes to them".
Even though it was borrowed from a B-grade Hollywood film called Lipstick (Lamont Johnson, 1976), Insaf Ka Tarazu was bold for its time; it was criticised then for the titillating rape scenes, in retrospect, however, it was progressive at a time when rape victims in Hindi films usually committed suicide or were sometimes "accepted" by a noble man who did not hold her non-virgin status against her.
Zeenat Aman, who came into the movies as a beauty queen, also brought in a refreshing lack of hypocrisy. She flaunted her figure, never hid her boyfriends, and heralded the time in Bollywood when the heroine was no longer required to be a sari-clad saint.
Insaf Ka Tarazu needed an unabashedly sexy heroine to prove the point that Pink makes today - that no matter what a woman does, or wears, or how friendly she is with men, she is not asking to be molested or raped.