Talking about Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal, the National Award-winner director said that ‘cinema is a powerful medium’ and misogyny is being normalised ‘in the name of entertainment’.
Filmmaker Onir believes that in a country like India where violence against women is a reality, a film ‘glorifying’ misogyny is wrong. Talking about Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal, the National Award-winner director said that ‘cinema is a powerful medium’ and misogyny and violence against women are being normalised ‘in the name of entertainment’. This came in a time when Kiran Rao-Aamir Khan versus Sandeep Reddy Vanga's debate is still at its peak.
Onir believes that cinema is a powerful medium and in a country like India, one has to be responsible. “I feel that films are a powerful medium that is often used by the state across different countries as propaganda. Even Hitler used it as a tool for propaganda. It was aimed to build a hate narrative against a particular community. Creative liberty is dangerous in those spaces. Misogyny, in a country like India, where there is so much violence against women, is not on. Somewhere we, as individuals, need to be more responsible,” the director said.
Onir pointed out that a lot of Indian films normalise something wrong. He said through these portrayals, criminal acts like domestic violence get normalised. “A lot of Hindi films earlier and even now, like Kabir Singh or so, have a certain amount of problematic depictions — a girl being molested, or being pinched. All these are supposed to be normal. I went to an event where the host came up to an actress and wanted her to do something. When she said ‘no’, the host said, “Oh. Yeh ladki log jab na bolti hai it means yes.” And I was like, ‘Oh my god. It is so wrong’. But everyone was laughing and told me, ‘Oh you are thinking too much.’ But is it too much to think? Or is it like normalising a lot of things that are not correct? A lot of things are being wrongfully normalised, like a boyfriend can slap you once in a while. A lot of people accept domestic violence as a result. This troubles me so much,” he said.
The director even refused to identify films like Animal as ‘entertainment’. “People often say, 'Oh but this is entertainment'. But how can something pass as entertainment when it is so regressive? Generally, we say films have a huge impact and when it comes to this, how can we say it is just entertainment? Cinema affects people. That’s why we have nationalistic films. How come when it comes to misogyny it is normal and it becomes about love? No,” he said.
Addressing the debate between ‘creative liberty’ and promoting misogyny, Onir pointed out that films that question different aspects of the ‘majority’s religion’ do not enjoy any liberty. He said, “So you are asking for creative liberty for toxic masculinity or for portraying minorities in a certain way. Then suddenly if there is a film that critiques or questions a certain aspect of, for example, Hinduism, then the same people forget about creative liberty. Then there are death threats, films get banned, and so on. A simple example is Nayanthara’s Annapoorani. Nobody got a chance to evaluate certain interpretations – if it was even meant to incite hate or if it was about to ignite conversations and dialogues.”
However, Onir did not watch Animal and he said it was a ‘conscious call’ on his part. “I haven’t watched it. I avoid watching anything that has some kind of hate narrative towards a particular community or something that glorifies misogyny and normalises violence. Today there is so much violence – on OTT, films, and so on. Is there a lot of suppressed violence in society that gets reflected on the screen? Life imitates art as art imitates life. If we can try to go to a better world, why are we making these extremely popular things that people do not question?” hethe director asked.