Marriage in India was once considered as a sacred institution. Today, it can’t be deemed as sacred anymore. Making criminal provisions for our family laws have criminalized marriage and now many husbands are forced to take the extreme step of committing suicide. A section of the society accepts the fact that the law needs to be changed but it never happens due to pressure from feminist organizations. The society is yet to be sensitized adequately about this kind of terrorism on Indian families.
To bring out this aspect of Indian marriages, Gurgaon based filmmaker Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj has filmed the pain of these unfortunate families in her documentary “Martyrs of Marriage”.
The film features a few stories of real-life victims and expert opinions on the subject. Practicing advocates of different courts in India and retired judges’ were interviewed to being different aspects of the issue. All of them agreed that the law was being misused by many women and hence needed to be changed.
Martyrs of Marriage, popularly known as MOM among netizens today, is a documentary in English with Hindi subtitles. Some victim stories were narrated in Hindi with English subtitles. Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is the sole Promoter, Filmmaker, Director and Writer of this documentary. In this aspect, Deepika has shown good qualities of all the roles she had played in this documentary. As a first time docu-maker for a cause not generally accepted by the society, Deepika had done an excellent job and excelled in all fields.
This documentary comes at a time after a long history of misuse of dowry law (section 498a of Indian Penal Code). Even after many Supreme Court judgements, the suicide of innocent families, arrests of elderly and infants together in such complaints no other filmmaker had so far taken up this cause for making a documentary. Earlier Suhaib Ilyasi tried to make a movie “498a – A wedding Gift” on this topic but that never saw the path of theatres yet. In this aspect, Deepika’s attempt is the first.
Since a documentary needs to be reviewed based on different parameters compared to those for mainstream movies, we will first discuss the qualities of Martyrs of Marriage (MOM) as a documentary film before coming to the point how she dealt with a very sensitive matter.
Other than the victim stories which were narrated by the victims or their families, Deepika used her voice over for the entire documentary. This is another unique feature of this documentary and was dealt with well. The narration was clear and rightly-paced so that the audience understands the complex legal matters. This went well with the interviews in the documentary as the victim stories also matched the documentary pace. Since it was an interview style documentary, the director did not have many options of showing her creativity with camera angles but she tried to include relevant stakeholders for each case and tried to bring out the suffering of the families of men.
The documentary used no dramatization as it was dealing with a very sensitive matter but the stories and emotions of the victims’ families hardly needed any additional dramatization. The heart-wrenching stories of cruelty faced by these families were enough to keep the audience glued to the film for the entire duration. Coupled with this was the apt narratives on various judgements, crime statistics, and explanations of legal terms that made the documentary easily understandable to all. This way Deepika had shown her in-depth research and objective approach to a highly sensitive issue.
Since the documentary was on the suffering of families and involved sensitive handling of people’s emotions, the use of music and appropriate sound effect or even silence to highlight those emotions.
Even though the documentary was primarily to show the unheard stories of men’s families, the filmmaker did bring out opposite viewpoints along with legal experts’ views as well. The documentary brings out the pains suffered by women relatives (sisters, mothers, daughters etc) of men as well. Women like Uma Challa was candid in expressing their views on a law that was made to empower women like them. It was indeed interesting to watch how a woman director handled this matter in a way that didn’t set to create a gender war that is otherwise visible in any feminist filmmakers work.
This documentary not only brings stories from the husband families but also shows some real-life recorded conversations of wives to show how some women are blatantly misusing Indian legal system. These conversations are sufficient to show the terrorism unleashed on many Indian families. To show the craziness of modern day divorces in India, this film also shows relevant news videos.
Overall, as a documentary film Martyrs of Marriage could successfully bring out the real issue of legal terrorism against innocent families and the helplessness of Indian judiciary in dealing with these matters. Also in order to bring out the pain of men and their families, Deepika was careful about not creating a war against her own gender. Feminist interviews taken for the film shows real intellect as feminist like Ranjana Kumari self-exposed herself in such a manner that even in a serious heart-wrenching film like this left its audience burst out in laughter at Ranjana’s response.
The real review of the movie came from the audience who attended the Bangalore premier on 19th November, when there was absolute silence for at least one minute after the movie ended before the entire crowd stood up in a standing ovation. We wish Deepika and her entire crew all the luck and best wishes for their next documentary which will be on another men’s issue.
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