Aparna Sen’s ‘The Rapist’ goes beyond the culprit-survivor binary

As Kerala remains glued to court proceedings in an assault case involving celebrities, a multi-layered film, The rapistdirected by the author Aparna Sen, goes beyond the guilty-surviving binary to explore why a person becomes a rapist.

the rapist, who won the Kim Jiseok Award at the Busan International Film Festival 2021, struck the audience at the 26th edition of the Kerala International Film Festival. With the Monkeys’ daughter Konkona Sen Sharma, Arjun Rampal and Tanmay Dhanania in the lead roles, the film explores how a heinous crime such as rape affects those involved and society at large. Is it nature or nutrition or a combination of both? What circumstances make one a rapist?

The 76-year-old famous actor and director, winner of several national and state awards, speaks by phone from Kolkata and explains why she made a film that tries to understand a society that creates rapists. She says: “A newborn does not become a rapist overnight. He becomes a small child, a young boy, a young … What makes him a rapist? Rape, say activists and academics, is about power. I agree with. But what makes a person use rape as a weapon, as a way to subdue a woman? ”

She says that the theme had been in her mind since the case of Nirbhaya and two years ago it crystallized into a story and a script. When a Mumbai-based production house contacted her and she told this story, they were enthusiastic about it.

But it took some time before the film got the green signal. “I went to Mumbai, met Sameer Nair (CEO of Applause Entertainment) and told the story. That’s how the producers, Applause Entertainment, came on board,” she recalls.

The film was shot in Delhi for 27 days and was completed in 2021. The monkeys say that the film could only have been shot in Delhi because she had thought it was the place. Konkana plays Naina, a criminology professor married to Aftab Malik, essay by Arjun.

Director and actor Aparna Sen | Photo credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Each character goes through a prism of change after the rape as they wrestle with their own long-held beliefs. “Aftab, for example, is against the death penalty, but when his wife is raped, he will examine for himself his position against the death penalty. The lives of Naina, Aftab and Prasad (Tanmay) change overnight as a result of the only act of sexual violence.

“When Naina finds out she’s pregnant she’s not sure if the child is her husband’s and that’s when she decides to learn more about the rapist. She wants to know if his crime is in his genes! She wants to find out why he raped her. ”

She chooses her words carefully and says that Naina is “pro-choice”. “Now it does not mean that she is for abortion or that she is moving on with the pregnancy. It means that the woman has a choice to decide what she wants to do with it.”

When Naina and Prasad talk to each other, the layers peel off and at one point Prasad realizes that he is calling Naina didi (Sister).

For the script, the Monkeys spoke to two friends who work with survivors and abused women, doctors and lawyers.

Konkona Sen in a still image from Aparna Sen's film

Konkona Sen in a still image from Aparna Sen’s film ‘The Rapist’ | Photo credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

What was it like working with her daughter on their sixth film? The mother’s pride in her daughter is evident in her words.

“She has gotten better and better in every way. We talk to each other every day. But we talk about everyday things, what she ate, where she went and in between maybe she slips in for a prize she has won.

“When she started working with me, she used to listen to me more. Now she brings in her own interpretation of her character. I was sure she would be best for Naina.”

She points out that she was careful to ensure that she does not take sides in the film and that each character must navigate in their own complexity and understanding.

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