Violence Towards Ladies Has Made a Resurgence in India. Deepika Padukone’s New Movie Highlights the Energy of Survivors

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Laxmi Agarwal was 16 years outdated when her life modified ceaselessly. She was out operating an errand in New Delhi in 2005 when she was attacked with acid by three assailants, certainly one of whom was a 32-year-old household good friend whose romantic advances she had refused. She suffered extreme accidents and underwent a number of surgical procedures within the months and years following. “It was not only an attack on me,” Agarwal says. “I was physically attacked, but my entire family paid for it.”

Channeling her anger into motion, Agarwal has since develop into a high-profile campaigner for banning the sale of acid and acquired the Worldwide Ladies of Braveness Award from Michelle Obama in 2014. After encouraging other acid attack survivors in India to come back ahead with their tales, her personal expertise is now being instructed by the nation’s largest medium: a Bollywood movie adaptation directed by Meghna Gulzar and produced by and starring Deepika Padukone. “Laxmi was the one who started fighting for this cause, she was the first one that uncovered her face and she was the one who was unapologetic about the way she looked,” Padukone tells TIME, forward of the Jan. 10 world launch of Chhapaak. “She was kind of a torchbearer for any amendment that we see today in the law regarding the regulation of the sale of acid.”

The discharge of Chhapaak, (loosely translated as ‘splash’), comes as violence against women in India has made a painful resurgence within the headlines in latest months. Past India’s borders, too, ladies took to the streets to protest violence in opposition to ladies: an anti-rape chant from Chile unfold to 200 cities worldwide in December and mass demonstrations came about in France in November to sentence the country’s rising rate of femicide. Whereas Chhapaak focuses on acid violence particularly, Padukone says the present world context underscores its relevance. “It makes us feel like there couldn’t be a better time for a movie such as ours to come out.”

Deepika Padukone stars in new film Chhapaak
Deepika Padukone stars in new movie Chhapaak
Chhapaak stills

In a rustic the place prime movie stars are likely to avoid politics, Padukone—India’s highest-paid feminine actor—has made headlines this week for joining students protesting against the government on Tuesday night. She stood silently behind a pupil chief who was injured when masked males, armed with sticks and rods, stormed into the campus of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru College (JNU) on Sunday, injuring some 30 people. After pictures of Padukone on the protest circulated on-line, #BoycottChhapaak trended on Twitter, whereas others praised Padukone for being a uncommon dissenting voice amid India’s political crackdown underneath the hashtag #ISupportDeepika.

It wasn’t the primary time Padukone has damaged from the ranks of conventional A-Record Bollywood stars to take a stand on essential social points — having gained a profile as an advocate for psychological well being and now turning her consideration to acid violence. Statistics out there from India’s National Crime Records Bureau point out that 206 circumstances of acid assaults and makes an attempt to perpetrate acid assaults on ladies have been reported in 2016. Advocates say that unreported circumstances imply that the true figures are prone to be a lot larger, probably as many as over 1,000 assaults per 12 months. According to Acid Survivors’ Trust International, acid assaults in India typically happen in public locations and generally, the assault is dedicated by an individual recognized to the sufferer.

After her assault, it took years for Agarwal to really feel comfy with going out in public. The help of relations and mates ultimately gave her the power to take action. “I thought that if these people can see me and they can accept me, why not the entire world?” says Agrawal, now 31. In 2006, she and one other acid assault survivor filed a Public Interest Litigation within the Supreme Court docket of India to manage the sale of acid within the nation and new prison legal guidelines to take care of offenders. Seven years later in 2013, the Supreme Court docket dominated of their favor, including restrictions on the sale of acid to people beneath the age of 18.

Whereas the implementation of the laws fluctuate from state-to-state, Agarwal says that the previous six years have seen additional strengthening within the regulation and attitudes to survivors altering in broader society. Her personal “Stop Sale Acid” marketing campaign in 2018 inspired native shop-owners to cease promoting acid and provided a certification for many who took an oath to not promote it. “2013 was a start, because there was nothing for survivors,” she says. “The most important thing, and the best thing that happened was the other acid attack survivors who took the courage to come out with their stories and be accepted by the world.”

Director Meghna Gulzar and actor Deepika Padukone on the set of Chhapaak
Director Meghna Gulzar and actor Deepika Padukone on the set of Chhapaak
Chhapaak stills

From Chhapaak’s inception, Agarwal was concerned within the manufacturing course of, assembly with Padukone a number of occasions and attending the capturing of the movie. “When I saw Deepika playing me, I was so happy to see her look exactly like me,” says Agarwal. Whereas Padukone takes on the lead position primarily based on Agarwal, a number of different acid assault survivors are featured in appearing components in Chhapaak. “What compelled me to do this project was the spirit that all of these survivors have,” Padukone tells TIME. “It’s also about what they’ve chosen to make of their lives and that experience and that incident, that they’ve not succumbed but have actually come out more victorious and stronger. There’s something for all of us to learn from that.”

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Padukone’s personal expertise of overcoming private traumas added one other layer to the storytelling of Chaapaak. In 2015, Padukone publicly spoke about her struggles with clinical depression and her mental health. That very same 12 months, she created the Dwell Chortle Love Basis, aiming to cut back stigma, present schooling and lift consciousness round psychological well being. She sees the frequent thread between herself and Agarwal as turning adversity into advocacy. “I would never compare depression and acid violence because they’re completely different, but at the same time, those experiences influenced both of our lives,” Padukone says. “[Agarwal’s] situation was life-threatening in a certain sense, mine was life-threatening in a different sense, yet we both have wanted to overcome that, to fight that, and to make that experience meaningful not just for ourselves but for the people around us.”

For Agarwal, a type of folks is her younger daughter, who’s trying ahead to seeing the movie. She additionally hopes that by the movie’s portrayal of her journey, it’s going to have a broader affect on attitudes in direction of acid assault survivors. It’s a sentiment that resonates with Padukone too, who says she learnt a terrific deal in regards to the challenges survivors face whereas appearing in and producing the mission. “On a much deeper level, hopefully we will be able to challenge the notion of what beauty is, or the way we’ve been conditioned to understand beauty,” she says. “I think what they want is to not be treated as anything less than any of us.”

Write to Suyin Haynes at suyin.haynes@time.com.



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