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Kill the Rapist? Provocative Bollywood thriller aims to deter Indian attacks


A controversial new Bollywood thriller, to be released in India within months, aims to deter potential rapists through a "very violent and brutal" representation of how a victim who manages to capture her attacker decides his fate.

Titled Kill the Rapist?, the film, dedicated to "women across the world" according to pre-release publicity material, has already provoked debate. A website publicising the "empowering" film says its aim is to make "every rapist shiver with fear before even thinking of rape".

On Saturday a court in Delhi is likely to pass the first sentence in the case of a 23-year-old woman who was raped by six men on a moving bus in Delhi last December. She later died of injuries sustained in the assault. The incident prompted outrage and calls for wholesale reform of the law, court processes, policing as well as a broader cultural shift.

Six men were rapidly arrested for the attack and a special "fast-track court" set up to try them. One, the alleged ringleader, hanged himself in prison earlier this year. The sentence will be passed on an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the crime. Indian law limits his punishment to a maximum of three years in prison. The other defendants, who face the death penalty, will be sentenced at a later date.

The family of the victim have repeatedly called for the juvenile, if found guilty, to be hanged.

"It has to be the death penalty … The fight will go on. Right up to the supreme court and internationally after that," Badri Singh, father of the victim, told the Guardian last month.

Siddhartha Jain, 39, the Mumbai-based producer of the new film, said that the Delhi attack last year had inspired him.

"Most people had their eyes opened by last year's incident. [The film] has a very aggressive title because subtlety in India does nothing. The aim is to put pressure on law enforcers, lawmakers, the media, to get real change," Jain said.

The first half of the film shows an "independent, career-driven, single" woman living and working in Delhi who is being stalked. Police prove unable to help, even after a rape attempt. When the would-be rapist makes a second attempt, she manages to capture him. The rest of the film explores the question of what the woman – and her two female housemates – should now do with the man.

"Ideally she would go to the police and the law would take its course. But that doesn't happen here. So how can she stop him coming after her again if she frees him? So she does something really fantastic that is legal for her. I think at some point, if the law can't protect you, you have to protect yourself," Jain said.

Sanjay Chhel, who directed the film, said its climax would send a strong signal and generate fear in the minds of potential attackers.

"It is the job of law and Indian society but the law and society has failed," Chhel said.

There is increasing dissatisfaction among India's middle classes over the state's inability to provide basic services, from clean drinking water to security on the streets.

Though the Delhi attack last year led to some reforms, campaigners say there has been limited change.

Last week a new gang rape was reported on a journalist in Mumbai. Her attackers took a picture of her on a mobile phone after the attack and threatened to "shame her in public" if she went to the police. They had previously assaulted several other women and used the tactic to ensure their silence, police said. Rape victims in India are often considered "dishonoured" and are ostracised. The new film explores such attitudes and their effect on individuals.

The Indian supreme court recently expressed concern at the low numbers of convictions in prosecutions for sex crimes.

Menaka Guruswamy, a supreme court lawyer, said that such failures of the criminal justice system reflected much broader problems.

"The first contact of most people with the state is not the constitution, it is getting a gas connection or going to the police station for something trivial. If you can't get that done then what hope does a rape victim have? There is a broader crisis," Guruswamy said.


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