GHAR (1978): Finding Home

I have been watching a lot of old Hindi films on Amazon Prime of late, given the lockdown it is strange that Bollywood is giving me solace, it is my comfort zone. I must say that I was surprised by Ghar, a pleasant departure for a film that talks about rape and rape victims and the people close to them. After the horrific Nirbhaya Delhi case there have been many films where rape has been a pivotal point only to take the narrative arc of having a male hero or even films like MOM where the only retribution is the killing of the preparators of crime.

Ghar narrates a tale of star-crossed lovers, the rich boy meets a poor girl and they fall in love. They boy rebels by walking out of his father’s home to marry his lady love. All good so far, we get two good looking people romancing in and around Bombay with one of the best Hindi soundtracks.

Soon reality hits them hard, they need to find a home. They manage to find a home, where they find bliss and love. As anybody who has lived in the metropolis called Mumbai will tell you, you know you can get everything apart from a home to call of your own over here. Soon they are forced to search for a new home, with limited resources at their hand they find a home in matchbox sized flat.

They continue to live their life, with Aarti (Rekha) settling in the role of home maker and Vijay (Vinod Mehra) working. This is one of the few Indian films which does not treat sex as unwanted or sin. It deals with it as a physical intimacy that’s perfectly legitimate between two people who are in love and is an extension of their love.

Spoilers ahead

The film takes time to build up, but then things change one day when Aarti is violated and Vijay is beaten up. When Vijay wakes up, he realises that Aarti is not there. On searching for he finds that Aarti has been sexually assaulted by a group of men and she is in hospital.

This is where the film takes a different route, it is not interested in doling out punishment to the criminals. It is more interested in the aftermath of crime on victim. It treats rape just as another crime.

The film deals with the fragility of male ego, it does not demonise it. It reverses the view and raises the question of alpha male. What if an attacks happens and the male is unable to prevent it. Here in one of the best scenes of the movie, Vijay feels that the world is looking at him as soon as he alights from the taxi to head to his office. He feels the world is questioning his manhood, his inability to protect his wife.  Vijay asks his boss why everybody is being sympathetic to him.

With Aarti’s long road to recovery, she has her own apprehensions. She suffers from the trauma of a horrendous crime. She thinks what if Vinod her husband refuses to accept her because of the ghastly crime.

The rest of the film traces the journey of the couple from thereon, how they reconcile and find love again.

End of Spoilers

What I liked about the movie is that indicates why rape is still a taboo topic in India. Most narratives of mainstream Indian films focus on rape and equate it with attack on personal dignity or honour of women. Rarely do we see the main female lead of Indian films get raped on screen, unless it’s a case of the rape victim turning out to be someone who goes about avenging the injustice meted out to her, like in case of Mom or Maatr. If the film has a female lead like in case of Insaaf Ke Tarazu then again the focus is on retribution. Both sets of films demonize the villain and glorify the victim and their sole objective being revenge, as if their lives did not have any other purpose.

This is where director Manik Chatterjee and writer Dinesh Thakur bring our attention to the issue, they are not concerned about the retribution or justice. They are more concerned about the aftereffects of the crime on the victim and those around them.

Ghar is one of the most sensible and sensitive portrayals of crime, punishment and victims that I have watched so far.

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