Lakshman Rekha, a film by Geetika Tondon looks at how conversations in the media are played out in cases of sexual assault in India. This twenty minute short premiered in July 2016 at the inaugural session of the Film Club, Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, in the presence of the film maker. The film was followed by an intense discussion in the form of a Q & A session with the film maker.
This film is doing the rounds of local and international festival circuits at an interesting juncture. While it was written and made much before the Brock Turner case came under the spotlight, one of the characters being a sportsperson easily reminds us of the heavily criticised Turner verdict. The film maker, when asked about the resonance said she was inspired by several cases which have received media attentionin recent years, one of which was the conversations around the incident involving Shweta Prasad and the ensuing vilification.
The2012 Delhi gang rape led to a discursive shift in the conversations around violence against women but even then, what kind of a victim of assault is a ‘good’ victim and who is a ‘bad’ one is definitive in the nature of conversations that surround publicized cases of sexual assault[i]. The aspects of class and religious difference of the two people at the centre of the conflict in this film that enables a spiralling of debates, iswell captured by the film maker.
The film could be a canvas for a reading of varying kinds of masculinities at play through several social elements which are injected into the conversations around a case of sexual assault. It presents before the audience a range of people who are activated either through interviews by news channels or use social mediaplatforms to participate in the public discourse which contributes to rape culture. The avenues open to do so, like a Facebook group which stands by the accused in the name of culture, is effectively portrayed. What culture is ‘Indian culture’ is a pressing question of our times that Tondon tries to flesh out through her film. The use and abuse of various media platforms, who are the people sought out to be opinion makers, and what issues become focal points in such debates are aspects that LakshmanRekha throws up.
Another recent case which may be implicated in the conversations that the film hopes to trigger is the Mahmood Farooqui case, which has caused an impassioned flurry of debates based on its verdict[ii]. What is seen as upholding a woman’s autonomy over her body irrespective of her dress, clothes, past sexual history, identity etc. is laudable, even as others question the intensity of assault, minimum sentencing and other nuances of the trial.
Are there limits to one’s freedom? Are they based on one’s assigned gender, religion? Are they defined by one’s caste or class? Indeed, who decides the ‘lakshman rekha’ for whom, is the question that the filmmaker leaves us with.
Tanya Joshi has sensitively portrayed Sameera; the technical crew and other actors have also done a good job. The film features noted actors from Hyderabad- Vinay Varma and Sowmya Ram.
Institutions and centers interested in screening ‘LakshmanRekha’ may contact the director through the website link:
The promo of the film may be accessed at their Facebook page:
Directed by Geetika Tondon
Produced by Snoopy Films (GeetikaTondon and Chris Higgins)
Shraddha Chickerur is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad
[ii] Links to some articles on this debate, accessed on 12th September 2016:
J Devika & Nivedita Menon, ‘The Mahmood Farooqui Rape Conviction – A Landmark Verdict’,URL:https://kafila.org/2016/08/14/the-mahmood-farooqui-rape-conviction-a-landmark-verdict-j-devika-nivedita-menon/
Natasha Badhwar interviews Flavia Agnes, ‘Can’t Compare Brutal Gang-Rape With Forced Oral Sex’,URL:http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/cant-compare-brutal-gang-rape-with-forced-oral-sex/297766
Kalpana Kannabiran, ‘The Cure For ‘Moral Panic’, URL: