Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Provoked: Tale of a battered wife

I was watching Provoked just a couple of days back, and after thinking it over a few times, came to the following conclusion. It is a good movie overall, but I somehow felt that the movie was itself not provocative enough to elicit the desired horror of torture against a spouse. On thinking about the movie again, the focus seemed to be more on the cause of getting Kiranjit Ahluwalia (Aishwarya Rai) out of jail and free from her sentence. The movie focused on the incidents in her life, regular torture (emotional and physical) at the hands of her husband, burning of her husband by fire and the subsequent legal punishment. But the focus of the movie was more about the argument that her regular torture caused her to snap and finally kill her husband. I guess that was the intention of the movie, but the other cause of marital violence does not get covered enough.
The movie was impressive to some degree, especially given that nothing gets very highly melodramatic, and the legal case was interesting, giving an insight of the British legal system. So what was the story all about ? This was about a Punjabi girl, Kiranjit Ahluwalia who marries an Indian man settled in England. She comes with a lot of hopes and wishes, similar to what a newly married girl would want. However, her hopes over a period of time get crushed. Her husband mistreats her, beating her, subjecting her to sexual exploitation, emotionally abusing her. She is submissive against his nature, and does not get any support from family to protect her (in one evocative scene, her husband mistreats her in front of her mother-in-law, and does not face any kind of reprisal). Her only support is her 2 children who are the treasures of her life.
The mistreatment continues, and in the most controversial part of the movie, she decides not to take further punishment (and maybe pushed over the edge), she burns her husband by putting a gasoline soaked run on fire where her husband is sleeping. Her husband is now in intensive are while she is being investigated; when he dies of complications, she is faced with a murder charge. And this is where the legal system is faced with a puzzle. She has committed the crime of murder, and no society can easily afford to let people commit deadly violence (unless faced with a life threatening situation, such as self-defense). Accordingly, she is sentenced to life in jail, with not much recognition of her abuse. In an advanced society such as the United Kingdom, it must be real puzzling to have a marriage continue with so much unhappiness; rules and laws against such violence are pretty strong.
The remainder of the movie is about her time in jail, about her close friendship with her cellmate and the attempts of a women's organization to get the legal system to recognize
her torture and its effect on her state of mind, in essence, that she was 'provoked' to commit this crime.
I was somewhat puzzled after the movie, in terms of a message. The movie depicts a real-life situation, and caused a change in the way the law looks at marital violence and its trigger on emotions. At the same time, taking the life of a person (unless in a legal way) is a no-no. If a marriage is beyond the point of return, or there are circumstances which cause such kind of trauma, then it is better to separate (although I am pretty sure that this is not a easy step at all). I wonder what other people who saw the movie thought about this?

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