Sharaafat Ke Liye Sharaarat [For Respect, I Molest]
Changjiang Museum of Contemporary Art, Chongqing
Single Channel HD Video with Sound, 6:01 mins, Projection dimensions: 12’ X 6.75’, Video Projector, Media Player, Speakers
The video asks us to examine the inherent misogyny, violence against, and alienation of women in contemporary Indian society through one of its most pervasive reinforcers, mainstream Bollywood cinema. As we question and examine the roots of this real violence, and challenge it, we must also sever the relationship between the real and unreal - the physical world and sexualized, on-screen illusions.
The title is adapted from a line in the song “Gale Mein Laal Taai” from the film Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, 2002. The song remains popular today and is playing in the background as the men dance in the street. Intentioned to seduce, the song follows an increasingly sexualized exchange between a man and woman, as he woos her into sleeping with him, under the pretense of protecting her from an apparent, other, villain. The line in question is:
“kehata huun sar ki kasam, zyaada na chheduunga, is sharaafat ke liye, ek chumma luunga.”
(I swear most solemnly, I will not harass you, In return for this respect, I will steal a kiss.)
In highlighting the contradiction between “I will not harass you” and “I will steal a kiss” - a simultaneous promise of respect and violation - we notice a further contradiction, between that of the sexually available, easily seduced woman as decoration, who is the subject of the song, and the glaring absence or invisibility of actual women in the video.