Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and released in the year 1993, Damini is a movie which is not only based on a social but also a legal issue. In the history of Indian Cinema, it is one of the finest courtroom drama movies created. The film represents bold subjects like :
- how insensitively rape cases are dealt in the Indian Judiciary with lengthy proceedings,
- the ugly side of people’s mentality to hide a crime and support their children blindly,
- hypocrisy in order to maintain a reputation in the public life,
- practical difficulties of always speaking the truth and last but not the least,
- the wide gap in the society between the haves and the have not’s.
Damini means lightning, and the movie’s title is apt as it directly strikes on the double standards of high society people. Damini, the central character, around whom the whole story revolves, portrays truth and innocence every time; from the market place to household issues and personal issues. After getting married to a wealthy businessman, Shekhar, she still abides by her truth policy and even when their house maid Urmi, was gang-raped by her brother-in-law and his friends, she maintains her stand towards the downtrodden people.
At the initial stage, when she was influenced by her in-laws so as to maintain the reputation, she agreed to it but she wanted to give justice to the house maid by helping her in medications and healthcare facilities, however, that also was not taken care of just for the sake of reputation. Rather than hiding the whole situation and act like no crime has taken place, the correct response to this situation as a parent would be a tight slap on their child’s face for committing such a heinous crime and at the same time as a human would be to ensure justice for the victim. A child’s first learning begins at home and the personality, morals, values that a child grows with, is all dependent on the parents, family and the atmosphere in which he/she grows in.
Later, when Damini stood up courageously against all the odds and decides to fight for truth, it is also misused by everyone. The Police, media and the opposite party use her truth policy for their own benefits and kept on taking advantages of the same. The police, in a very smart way tried to convince Damini to speak out the truth but with no aim to find the real culprit. They did so just to blackmail the culprit’s family and extract money from them. Similarly, the media tried to interrogate the victim in an inappropriate and insensitive manner which is certainly not acceptable. The aim of media is to work in a humane way by hiding the identity of the victim and interrogating in a dignified manner.
Also, adding up to it, the rivalry amongst the business tycoons, which stoops down to another level when a marriage does not take place between the families is clearly shown which then leads to huge losses, enmity and a bad reputation in people’s eyes.
The film not only depicted the negative but also gave the people a progressive feminist movie with such a beautiful and strong female character. Damini did not compromise with her conscience and courageously stood up for the rights of another woman, which is in a true sense women empowerment and feminism.
The fight against injustice begins at grass root level, and during this fight for right, media shoulders upon a very huge responsibility which is mass appeal. There are the number of readers for every news article and thus, the media is known as the 4th pillar of democracy. The authenticity of any published news article is questionable and every citizen have their right to truth. As in this case, after a certain period of time, the fight for justice was not only limited to Damini, but was extended to people oppressed by the wealthy and influential and made them aware about this case. In legal terms, a private interest litigation turned into Public Interest Litigation.
When it comes to litigating Lawyers, both the characters depicted the wide gap between rich and manipulative lawyers and honest and sincere lawyers. These are actually 2 sides of a coin. There are many lawyers who prove themselves successful by manipulating the facts and saving the criminal just for the sake of money and on the other hand some lawyers prove their capabilities through fighting sincerely and honestly for the needy in the society with comparatively less importance to self interest or economic aspirations.
Justice gets delayed in our country due to manipulations and witnesses are made to feel insecure. I used to hear elder people saying that movies like Damini are a mirror of what’s happening in the society. Though the movie is 3 hours long, it is highly engrossing as every aspect described in the movie is a message to all of us. With belief in our constitution and values imbibed in us, I would like to affirm Satyamev Jayate, which means truth prevails.
Author – Mohika Mahendrakumar Padhye, Student of S.Y.B.L.S. / L.L.B. at Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law
Also Read – Jolly LLB 2 – Movie Review