The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Ever since film makers discovered the sphere of women oriented cinema, they have capitalised on women’s issues to cook up male hijacked films on subjects that pervade the lives of women. While some people have tastefully consumed these, others continue to crave for ideal representations of women’s issues in cinema. In a male dominated industry, it’s ironic though not surprising that men have scripted, directed and produced these films leaving women with little or no say even in the making of their reel life fates.
The products have been Bollywood films like Dangal, Padman, Pink, Chak De India and Mission Mangal. Like these, Suno, a twelve minute long short film, written and directed by Shubham Yogi, featuring Amrita Puri and Sumeet Vyas in lead roles is yet another man’s take on a woman’s issue. The purpose of this article is to uncover how far it goes into being a conceptual success.
The film begins with ambiguous descriptions of an event that the film revolves around for over ten minutes until its details are finally revealed in the climax. It intelligently focusses on the aftermath of what appears to be a regular domestic incident aggravated only by the occurrence of an ‘honest mistake’. For over ten minutes it churns our minds into wondering what wrong a seemingly ‘good husband’ like Sumeet Vyas could have done to bruise his wife’s face with evident injuries. The film takes the viewers through Amrita Puri’s journey of reviewing the incident in question marked by a tinge of confidence but heavy dismay and reluctance to take her husband’s assurance at face value. The final confrontation demystifies the plot when she outrightly asks Sumeet Vyas, “Kya tumne us raat meri marzi puchi thi?” (Did you ask for my permission that night?) and viewers can finally associate the film with the question of consent in marital relationships.
The film builds on the appropriate balance between precise visual depiction and symbolism, highlighting Amrita Puri’s blemishes but only taking us through the triggers of the actual incident verbally. The film thus subtly focuses on the issue of marital rape and in its course positions the tangible route that others in similar abusive relations can take to evaluate their situations and walk out like our female protagonist did. In that sense, it serves as an eye-opener and for which it must be applauded.
As Amrita Puri discovers the bleak truth of her seemingly secure relationship with Sumeet Vyas, the role that societal help can play in liberating us, even as we revolt against it is glossed over. Mrs. Dawar (the couple’s neighbour) persistently persuades Amrita Puri to join her support group even as she and her judgments became the subject of mockery inside Amrita’s household. The dialogues in this segment narrate Amrita’s reluctance to face a society marked by phrases like “unhone mujhe lift me daboch liya tha” (she caught me in the lift) indicating her fear and thus reflecting something within her. On the other hand, Sumeet Vyas’s dialogues mirror the societal male perception that views women as slow-witted and terms their collectives as ‘abla sakhi sammelan’ (Delegation of Damsels in Distress).
However, Sumeet Vyas, our ‘hero’ embodies all qualities that our society associates with ‘good husbands’. He constantly offers support to his wife and respects her opinion and taste as represented in the scene where he asks her how the dal he cooked tasted. His misogyny is tenderly noted in his remarks on other women including Mrs Dawar and overtly shows up only in the climax as he firmly pushes his belief on her, a right he assumes he has by virtue of being her husband and thus the superior in the relationship. The film thus comments on internalized misogyny and blurs the socially accepted dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ husbands. It exhibits how in our ignorance, the ‘good men’ find chances to violate us.
While the film attempted to highlight a more nuanced take on the patriarchal backing of marital rape, it unknowingly provided too many moral escape routes to our criminal ‘hero’ thus reaching somewhere on the crossroad between being a trail of communication or consent. The title of the film- “Suno” (Listen) is a reminder that this film, a seemingly apparent take on the question of consent in fact runs on the idea of communication in a relationship. The film repeatedly suggests through Sumeet Vyas’s recurring dialogue ‘maine suna nahi’ (I didn’t listen) that he is a husband who often overlooks what his wife says. His image of an ignorant husband is built block by block every time he fails to take notice of what his wife says, be it in the first scene in the car or on the breakfast table when she informs him of her plan to join the support group meeting. In the climax, when he admits he never heard her saying “no” to his sexual advances, this image is cemented.
By creating this foundation, the film unknowingly does enough to tell us that we’re dealing with an ‘ignorant’ man but not a ‘bad’ one and thus invokes an inapparent sympathy as opposed to the intense hatred that other films dealing with abusive men do. We’re only left with the immediate question ‘what if?’ What if he had heard her protests? Considering his protective personality, he surely wouldn’t have violated her consent then. It’s this escape route built on assumed male entitlement that the film carelessly, though not deliberately provides to Sumeet Vyas that propels me to remark that Suno, though a hearty and meaningful attempt, is yet another man’s imperfect take on a woman’s issue.