6 things to note about the Nirbhaya documentary...

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 07, 2015 20:01 hrs

The BBC documentary India’s Daughter directed by Leslee Udwin based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape has been creating controversy right from the time it was advertised to this present day.

While the Government of India banned it, the BBC went ahead and released it in defiance.

Here are some things to note about the documentary…

1. This is the first documentary unmasking everyone.

The 2012 gang rape led to tremendous outrage all across India and saw stormy protests in New Delhi. However till now nobody knew much in detail about all those involved in this gruesome incident.



This is the first documentary/programme that brings everyone to light: The victim herself, her parents, her friend, the policeman and doctor who first dealt with her and all the rapists through the eyes of one rapist.

Even the rapists’ lawyers come out in all their ugly glory. It is a must watch for that simple reason alone.

2. The documentary exposes the victim and hides the identity of the juvenile.

This is extremely curious. For the first time childhood photos of the victim are shown and someone enacts her role in the documentary. All the rapists are named and all the other characters like the doctor and duty policeman come on screen.

However the name of the juvenile is withheld. Also the only stills of him are with his face covered. In fact, the rapist being interviewed curiously keeps referring to him as “juvenile” even though there’s no way that they would have done so in real life.


Even the juvenile’s mother’s face is blurred but most of the other characters are shown clearly. Why would a documentary reveal as much they could about a victim (it is a crime to reveal such identity in India) but hide the identity of the juvenile is curious! He was months short of his 18th birthday then and must be nearing 20 today.

3. The documentary was advertised really badly.

Had this been simply presented as a documentary on the 2012 Delhi gang rape, it may not have got that much outrage or calls for ban. It was the way it was advertised. The following ad line caught everyone’s goat…

“For the first time, the face of evil, the rapist speaks on camera.” That led to a misunderstanding amongst most people that it was nothing but an interview on the rapist. That is not the case. India’s Daughter talks to many other players and the rapist is just one of them.

This is a case of a really pathetic case of advertising and a TRP rating game horribly gone wrong.

4. Can we trust a paid actor?

All manner of reports have come that the interviewed rapist was paid Rs 40,000. Since no strong denials have come, it may be true. This changes everything. Can we trust a paid actor? For that is what he has become after taking money.

5. The ban is on a technicality, not freedom of speech.

There was a demand to ban the documentary on Twitter. The Government of India checked and found that the proper procedures were not followed and banned it on a technicality and not on a freedom of speech issue.

However after that the Government lost the PR battle when the mood changed amongst most people not to ban it and it came to be seen as an issue of freedom of expression and not on the technicality as was earlier said.

When you talk of things like “pride” and “honour” and “showing India in bad light”, those arguments usually end up backfiring.

6. You can’t ban anything in today's day and age.

There is something called the Streisand Effect that says the more you try to suppress or ban something, the more widely it is circulated, especially on the Internet. The AIB Roast got about 5 million views before it was shut down.

The same thing happened here. The moment the Government announced the ban and the BBC released on YouTube, everyone made a beeline for their computer screens and promptly watched it.

YouTube may have taken it down from the official site but people are still uploading it in their personal accounts. So you can still see it if you search hard enough.

This has given tremendous publicity outside India and now more and more people will watch it especially considering that it has not been banned outside India.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here