‘Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal’ Movie Review: A nice outlook on women, with a vengeance, switching on the tit-for-tat mode

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Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal is an interesting and intelligent attempt that makes you ruminate and understand a woman’s perspective and her wrath on seeing the heinous crimes that happen against girls.

A rock song plays in the background. You get different scenes from the capital city of India – Delhi. Street art comes into the picture as you see paintings on the walls. Glimpses of India Gate, Lotus Temple, and Humayun Tomb can be seen. You see Delhi Metro train busily helping commuters to reach their destination. The focus shifts towards a woman named Vibha (Shalini Vatsa) as she occupies a space inside ‘Women’s only’ coach. She can, then, be seen putting two cigarettes in her mouth and lighting them. As she does so, the rock music in the background intensifies.

This opening scene of Director Aditya Kripalani’s Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal – The Incessant Fear Of Rape, streaming on Netflix, has a lot to tell you. It drops you off in the Delhi city (a city that, among many things, has garnered attention for increasing crimes against women). There is a particular emphasis on ‘Women’s only’ signboard as Vibha boards train. And there’s definitely a rage of a woman felt in that two-cigarette-smoking scene.

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal has four leading characters – Vibha, Shaila (Kritika Pande), Shagun (Sonal Joshi) and Chitra (Chitrangada Chakraborty). Shaila runs a ‘Taxi for women’ service. Due to certain circumstances, Shaila ends up picking up all three of them in her taxi by herself. All of them are strangers to each other and they randomly talk about various things. There comes a discussion on the types of feminism such as amazon, liberal, socialist, pop, radical, and feminazism (I didn’t know there are different branches of feminism honestly and it was good to be exposed). Not surprisingly, as it’s night time and they are in Delhi city, a topic on ‘women safety at night’ springs up. The talks, then, start entering into the terrain of ‘gang rape’ and the sheer brutality that the victimised women go through.

It is at this juncture the film actually starts taking a U-turn as these women start pondering over teaching a lesson to “such” men. They contemplate if brutally raping a single man would send the message across. As a matter of fact, men don’t think they can be raped at all, one of them says. Rightfully so, they conclude that it’s not that women can’t be brutal to men but they choose not to be. Co-incidentally, they encounter a man  (played by Vinay Sharma) riding his motorcycle and hurling vulgar comments at them. These women wind up beating this guy and keeping him shut inside a not-in-use room for a week.

The film, then, goes on to show what these women decide to do with this man and what measures do they think should be taken against him that will prove cruel in this man’s case. You see that they force him to cook food for them, clean the floor, jeer at him, or even make him wearing almost a bikini-style outfit. The film still shows that these women recuse from actually ‘raping’ this guy and only resort to showing him the fear of inserting a rod inside his anus. Somehow, even as these women try to inflict pain and be barbaric towards him in their own way, all those scenes aren’t that powerful. You can be left wanting for more such harsh and intense inserting-the-rod sort of scenes.

There can’t be tit-for-tat instances happening without a purpose. There is a deeply rooted cause behind all that indignation shown by these women. Their suffering is etched in their memories and nothing can erase that. Shagun, a cop, recounts an event when a woman came running to the police station for help but was shot dead right there by her father and brother in front of other male cops. Vibha reminisces a forgettable past where her daughter was kidnapped right in front of her and was gang-raped. Chitra narrates a miserable event where she tackled some men twice but failed at the third instance. Even Shaila, who is running a ‘taxi for women’ service, shows her fight towards women’s safety.

At other times, there are noticeable references or things that keep you thinking about women’s troubles. There’s a scene at Vibha’s home where both Vibha and Chitra are having a nice little conversation. The camera shows a framed painting in which two women are selling fish. Then, turns over to the wall clock that says 2 o’ clock. At this moment, you see Chitra enquiring if Vibha and her mother are staying in this home all by themselves. You wonder at the analogy created by Aditya Kripalani here and the inferences you can take away from it. The camera, then, turns away and slowly captures the framed posters on walls of films like Mandi (Directed by Shyam Benegal, this tells the story of a brothel) and Arth (Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, this explores extramarital affairs). In another scene, you see framed sketches of human hands on the wall at Chitra’s place. These are the sketches made by Chitra herself and present an eerie and sorry picture of a woman’s hand that has signs of sufferings. And whenever such sad depiction comes into the picture, you can’t help but find yourself mesmerised by the beautiful use of guitar sounds in the background.

As the movie comes to a close, these four women meet at a place for drinks and celebrate together for having taught a lesson to such men (albeit through one man). They listen to news coverage on the television saying that this man has committed suicide. All four of them standstill with a discernible shock on their faces. Vibha runs back to women’s toilet and weeps (the camera puts the focus on women’s signboard here). You see that she has sunk back into gloom after all this. Perhaps the tit-for-tat was never the right option. It has seemed so initially with all that agony in her heart. Seeing the fate of that man has not given her the happiness which she thought she would get. She thought a fitting reply has been given to that man. And these women did that in their own style. The bigger picture is that, perhaps, thoughts of taking revenge against men would never even occur in women’s mind if they are not subjected to such cruelty in the first place.

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal is an interesting and intelligent attempt that makes you ruminate and understand a woman’s perspective and her wrath on seeing the heinous crimes that happen against girls.

 

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