India Lockdown is now available online, and the film takes the audience back to the early days of the pandemic and how it affected people from different sections of society. The fear was not just about contracting the virus but also about having a stable income, battling loneliness, and surviving. The women characters in the film show a darker side of the crisis through their stories.
In a crisis, the privileges of class, caste and gender get prominently visible. How easy it is to sail through tough times shows that you belong to higher strata of society. By class, we refer to the economic strata, and it's undeniable that money solves many problems. Moving forward to caste, in a country like India, it plays a vital role as the have-nots face the brunt of it every day. And speaking of gender, women always get doubly oppressed and stay unsafe in any given situation.
India Lockdown Review
The " target="_blank" rel="noopener">film showcases different stages of the pandemic through parallel stories. It shows when the pandemic was spreading worldwide and had not reached India. While Rao, an elderly man, had taken the pandemic very seriously by maintaining precautions, his neighbours find it amusing. Madhav, played by Prateik Babbar, and his wife Phoolmati played by Sai Tamhankar, are in a deep financial crisis as Phoolmati loses her job due to lockdown restrictions and Madhav's food stall is forced to be closed for the same reason. Shweta Basu Prasad plays Mehrunissa, who works at a brothel and faces a threat to her source of income too. A young couple featured shows the privileged part of society being cushioned with safety, and the only problem they face is boredom and being away from each other.
Phoolmati supports her husband's decision to walk from Mumbai to their homeland in Bihar. The country saw a very similar scenario of exodus by the lowest strata of people who lost their jobs in the big cities and in search of shelter and food walked for days to reach home. For Madhav, it was the responsibility of his family to provide them with food while for Phoolmati it was all of that plus her own safety from the strange men in the same crowd. A man approaches her with inappropriate intentions and when Madhav confronts him, he blames her and gathers other men to beat up Madhav.
Meheru is a simple woman who came to Mumbai from her village to work as a nurse but the expenses made her choose the profession of a sex worker. She supports her mother, who is staying back in the village and hasn't revealed the reality of her job. Sex workers are exploited on a regular basis and the pressure of their operations closing down due to lockdown makes it more difficult. In a situation like this, the brothel manager decides to make the youngest resident of the place named, Titli start working as well as he mentions that the younger the woman, the higher the pay. The young girl hasn't even hit puberty, and when the topic comes up Meheru says that everyone's turn arrives someday, while another woman says that she, too, started working here before she got her period. But the circumstances change when Meheru finds Titli running away from the brothel, and when she confronts her, Titli expresses how she doesn't want to be sold off. Meheru sees herself in Titli and saves her from the cruelty.
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Women are on the receiving end of the exploitation that occurs in society most of the time. Right from a young age and irrespective of their situation, no one can escape the male gaze.
The character of Moon Alves, who acts inappropriately with the younger boy at her home which she apologises for later and blames on her loneliness did not make much sense. It did show that the crisis affects the privileged folks very differently and the problems are nominal. In all the Madhur Bhandarkar film tries to represent every other distinction and somewhere made justice to each of the narratives. Also triggering a haunting memory that most of us share regarding the pandemic. As it wasn't easy for anyone, but definitely more difficult for many.
The views expressed are the author's own.