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     Volume 4 Issue 39 | March 25, 2005 |

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Here and Beyond:

Rubaiyat Khan

On International Women's Day, The British Council hosted a screening of 'Kranti-Here and Beyond', a 90 minute feature film dedicated to women's rights and to promote social awareness. Written and directed by Dr. Mirza Hassan, Consultant Researcher working with Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Kranti targets a mainstream audience.

Kranti presents the life of a rural community and follows the activities of a female NGO worker, Rokea. The story is centred on the protagonist Rokea, and three young women in particular whose lives are positively affected by her. Rokea is an educated woman, who through legal intervention has set out to make a difference in the lives of women suppressed by patriarchal norms. She runs the local branch of a legal assistance outfit. Rokea is quick to defy tradition and social prejudices against women, thereby igniting much opposition, both overt as well as subtle. However, Rokea is not entirely portrayed as a one-dimensional character. Though we see her as an assertive figure and an agent of social change, she is vulnerable to contradictions born out of her own emotional baggage as a middle-class Bangali woman from a humble background. (At one point in the film for instance, she commits a Freudian slip by declaring that she too 'needed a husband'.)

Alekjan is the first of three women who turns to Rokea for help. A poor local village girl, Alekjan finds herself an unwed mother. The man who seduced her, the father of her child, is merely fined Taka 10,000 (spent on giving a feast) by the village elders and absolved of all other responsibilities. Alekjan's life on the other hand is ruined and she becomes an outcast. Her only concern now is her honour, and bound by patriarchal norms, she succumbs to the idea of marrying her seducer, if only to give her unborn child its father's name.

Shiuli, a naive village girl, is married off and sent to live 'happily ever after' with her husband and in-laws. However, unable to fulfill her dowry demands on time, she is sent back to her parents. Shiluli's husband writes her letters and declares that he loves her but he is portrayed as a weak and ineffectual coward who cannot go against his parents' wishes.

Amina, a fourteen-year-old, is raped, and Rokea and her team make an effort in aiding her by undertaking legal action against the perpetrator. The young girl is almost brutally interrogated by a local police officer who asks her if she's been 'soiled'. Shockingly enough in the end, the question of a woman's 'honour' once again rears its ugly head and the traumatised Amina is forced to marry her abuser.

Rokea's own emotional turmoil, her anger and frustrations at her inability to effectively help women like Amina are evident. However, there is reason to be hopeful in the end. Shiuli at one point realises the absurdity of her situation, and, in an act of self-liberation, burns her husband's letter. Alekjan takes a stand as well and one is allowed a glimpse of her staring wistfully at a class full of school children, indicating her desire to learn and to educate herself. Amina is the only exception; she perfectly fits the profile of the abused woman, one who can neither take a stand nor protest and therefore continues to be abused.

Kranti is a realistic portrayal of the issues that women face in the contemporary world they inhabit. The word 'Kranti' means transition or juncture and the film, though mainly concerned with fault lines of patriarchy and restrictive norms, also traces the subtle beginnings of a change of such norms. Kranti therefore ends on a hopeful note with Rokea continuing her quest to create these subtle changes and we are given the impression that she and others like her, will tirelessly work on changing the fabric of society, and in turn, help in reviving the spirit of womanhood.


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