First of all I sincerely thank my dear friend Suketu for inspiring me to pen a review of this much-talked-about movie of 1980 which was made by the prestigious B.R. Films banner of Bollywood and directed by the legendary director B.R. Chopra himself.
Insaf Ka Tarazu (the scales of justice) is the Indian version of a Hollywood movie – Lipstick (1976) but it’s a very well made movie and that’s why it was a commercial hit. It’s the story of a raped woman who does not get justice from the legal system which is heavily tilted in favour of the rapist male. After losing the legal battle, the woman restarts her life licking her wounds but one day the same rapist molests her younger sister too, then she could not bear the pain, now doubled, anymore and kills the rapist, only to face the court-room again, this time in the form of not the victim or the plaintiff but the convict.Rape is a heinous crime against a woman and ironically as well as painfully, it’s the only crime in which the victim only suffers afterwards too more than the culprit. The patriarchal social structures penalize the victim, i.e., woman only for a crime done to her by a man. That’s why, most of the case of rape / molestation are not even reported, leave aside resorting to legal procedure for booking and sentencing the culprit. In Indian courts, it’s seen that the defendant’s lawyer goes for character assassination of the victim in order to prove that whatever happened was consensual only and not something forced on her. The crude, vulgar and shameful questions thrown at the victim in the court by such lawyers are nothing but the second rape legally imposed on her which is not physical but verbal and more cruel. Quite naturally, most of the rape victims prefer to keep mum and live their lives with the unhealable wounds on their souls and the rapist gets moral strength to go for repetition of this crime.This is what has been underscored in this movie which is watchable mostly for the court-scenes only. Once Justice Sanwar Mal Agarwal had said – the difference between reel life courts and real life courts is even wider than that between the reel life and the real life. This applies to this movie too in which the court room scenes are though interesting, appear quite unreal. All the same, the trauma of the victim and the irony of this crime has been emphatically underscored through the lively court-room discussions involving the rival lawyers. The insensitivity of the law and the society in general towards the victimized woman has been portrayed in two lengthy court-room dramas – first, after the rape and second, after the murder of the rapist.
B.R. Chopra’s direction had a particular plus point. The opening scenes of the movies directed by him were so impressive that the viewer just found himself lost in the narrative that followed. It was the case with Kanoon (1960) which is undoubtedly the best court-room drama made in Bollywood and the same is with Insaaf Ka Tarazu which starts with a court-room scene in which a convict (an ex-serviceman, guest role played by Dharmendra) does not get justice and his outburst ends in his death. Then the Insaaf Ka Tarazu (the scales of justice) being in the hands of the lady having black strip tied on her eyes (the goddess of justice who is unable to see due to that strip) is shown as oscillating from this end to that end without properly balancing (symbolic of injustice being done).The rape scene which was the foundation of the story was a controversial one. However the real story starts after that only and the major part of the movie goes in the court-room proceedings which are the soul of the movie and keep the audience hooked (despite being excessively dramatic and containing a lot of rhetoric). The dialogues are impressive and the momentum of the story alongwith the curiosity of the viewer is well maintained through them.B.R. Chopra’s direction is pretty good but during the rape scene, the focus is on the heroine’s sensuality whereas it should have been on the mental torture she was undergoing in those moments. The movie is interesting but the impact that should have been enforced on the minds of the spectators, especially the males, gets diluted due to this reason. The verdict of the judge in the end is dramatic but not at all convincing. All the same, it’s a praiseworthy effort and the movie is worth a watch. Technically the movie is good.Performance wise talking, Raj Babbar as the rapist, has given a terrific performance in his debut movie itself (though it was not his first released movie). Zeenat Aman as the raped lady, Padmini Kohapure as her younger sister (who is also raped by the same person later) and Deepak Parashar as Zeenat’s beau have delivered admirable performances. However the show-stealers are Shreeram Lagoo and Simi Grewal in the roles of rival lawyers.
Music by Ravindra Jain is good. The title song (sung by Mahendra Kapoor) and Log Aurat Ko Faqat Jism Samajh Lete Hain (sung by Asha Bhosle) are better than the other songs. The meaningful lyrics have been penned by the great Shaayar Saahir Ludhiyanvi.Rape is a crime whose gravity can never be overemphasized. It is a crime which crushes the soul of the victim and hence should be hated by one and all. Whether it’s a war or a racial conflict or a communal riot, the victims are always women for no fault of theirs. The victimized woman sheds tears of blood for the remaining part of her life and none can feel her pain except a similar victim. That’s why such movies are important for enlightening the society. I recommend this three decades old movie to all those who like thought-provoking cinema.
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