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Warrior Women

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

After the sloganeering, media atttention and candle marches are done, some progress has been made in the matter of legal support for rape survivors, but the conviction rate is still very low. Fast track courts cannot lessen the torment and humiliation the victim has to go through, which is probably why the idea of vigilante justice seems so attractive.

Pajama Party, written, produced, designed and directed by Atul Satya Koushik, takes this route too, because, in culture of victim-blaming, who would believe a woman, who went willingly with her boyfriend to a private party, and the rape that ensued, had the grey area of consent?

Four friends gather at the home of aspiring actress Aisha (Kavita Kaushik)—Darsha (Kamya Panjabi), Urvi (Deepali Garg and Kalyani (Shakti Singh). They have planned a girls only sleepover, so Aisha’s boyfriend Abhay (Arjun Singh) is evicted for the night. The young women are drinking, laughing, teasing one another, and uninhibited enough to wear skimpy clothes.

Kalyani, who comes from a conservative family, sneaks off to another party with her boyfriend Raghu (Bhanu Pratap Singh/Suneel Kumar Palwal), promising to meet his pals and return. When she comes back a while later, she is in a state of shock and between sobs, reveals to her friends that Raghu raped her in front of his friends.

Aisha is in favour of immediately reporting to the police, but Kalyani is scared of her parents’ reaction, and Darsha is cynical enough to know that the son of a prominent lawyer will get away.

They then decide to beat up Raghu and his friends (did they just roll over to be thrashed?) and put up the video. To protect Kalyani they claim that one of them was raped. Obviously, the men can’t say anything without implicating themselves. The video goes viral and generates a heated discussion on crimes against women.

The second half, when Raghu reacts, and coldly wields his power over them, is chilling and more realistic, than the implausible turn the plot takes. Most films or plays about rape are depressing, because they underline the helplessness of the survivor against a system that is suspicious of her accusation to begin with, so Koushik's optimistic approach works.

In an early show, the actors were still grappling with the pitch of their performances, but Kamya Panjabi proved her mettle, followed by Kavita Kaushik, who has the best lines. Koushik usually does not stint on expense for production values, so the set of a movie struggler’s apartment is efficiently recreated.

Koushik balances the horror of the women’s experiences (apart from the rape, two of the women have their awful #MeToo stories) with some humour, a girl-power solution and a feel-good ending. Plus the star glamour, of course!

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