Section 375 trailer: #MeToo or #MenToo? Is Akshaye Khanna defending a guilty or an innocent?

Director Ajay Bahl’s film remind you that is best to not pass any judgment till a crime is proven, Richa Chadha looks all calm as the victim’s lawyer

By Mayur Lookhar

Akshaye Khanna (l) and Richa Chadha (r) in Section 375 (2019)

A crime as heinous as rape should carry the most stringent punishment.  India has the ignominy of being labelled the rape capital of the world.  Every second or third day, one gets pained to read of such crimes, especially against children.  The grim reality evokes anger, frustration. Hear any such tale, and it’s normal to demand swift justice, the harshest punishment for the guilty. While our anger is justified, it’s important to not pass judgment till the accused is pronounced guilty. 

This is an age of not just #MeToo but we’ve also seen few instances of #MenToo   The makers of Section 375 released their trailer today and it makes the viewers think over what’s really the truth here? Penned by Manish Gupta, Section 375 is helmed by Ajay Bahl.

Filmmaker Rohan Khurana [Rahul Bhat] is accused of rape by costume assistant Anjali Vasudev Dangle [Meera Chopra].. The important thing to note here is that Dangle is an OBC [Other Backward Classes].  How often does media reports mention the religion/caste of a victim.  If the victim is from a lower caste and the accused from an upper caste, it sadly threatens to blows up into a caste issue. The trailer suggests that the particular case here would also be looked upon the from the caste lens.

While the film is said to be based on true incidents [ most films are today],  the trailer begins on a disappointing note with the most absurd conduct from the police officer.  The film appears to be based in Mumbai, and based on experience, this writer is yet to come across a case where a Mumbai policeman would ask a complainant whether she was sexually active before rape? or did the accuse ejaculate?  Such kind of trope may have worked in the past -remember Damini (1993) where the defence counsel Inderjit Chaddha [Amrish Puri] asking Damini (Meesnakshi Sheshadri) whether she saw the accused (her brother in law] placing his hand on the victim’s jhange (thighs) – but there will be very takers for such sensationalism. It’s in bad taste. Full stop.

Khurana is defended by Tarun Saluja [Akshaye Khanna] while Hiral Gandhi [Richa Chadha] is seeking justice for her client Anjali.  Khanna is  a decent actor, but based on thee trailer, Saluja comes across as a cocky over the top and pretentious character.

Whie Saluja comes across as over bearing, Richa Chadha looks calm as Hiral Gandhi. Priyanka Chopra’s cousin Meera has so far struggled to make much impact, but the woman would hope that Section 375 ushers in a new positive change in her career.

The trailer is a bit tacky but it’s laced with a sense of objectivity.   Saluja’s conversation with Khurana with the latter saying that he will speak every thing but will never accept the rape charge,  does raise suspicion over his character? Similarly, Anjali narrating her ordeal in a very cold manner is very suspicious too. This writer could be guilty of being judgmental, but that’s what the trailer does to you. It leaves you in limbo, questioning who is telling the truth? As a viewer, you wonder is this #Metoo or a #MenToo story?

The most challenging aspect for a writer or a filmmaker when dealing with such subjects is sensitivity.  Is that being in observed in the trailer? May be not, at least based on the aggressive defence and some poor police conduct.  The calmness that Gandhi displays will perhaps compel you to believe her client’s truth. However, it’s best to not pass any judgement before the court gives its final verdict.

Not too long ago, television actor, singer Karan Oberoi was accused of rape under the pretext of marriage by his girl friend.  He was jailed for few weeks, but later there were serious doubts raised over the accusation. The alleged victim was arrested after the police accused her of staging an attack on her at the behest of her lawyer.

Section 375 of Indian Penal Code deals with the charge of rape. Is Khurana guilty? Or has Anjali filed a false case under Section 375? We will know the answer on 13 September.

Watch the trailer of Section 375 below.

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