Shreyas Kulkarni

Domestic abuse, rapes, forced pregnancies: The dark reality of lockdown

Dentsu Impact creates a hard-hitting film on forced pregnancies women face, especially during the lockdown.

India has seen 375 cases of rape/attempt to rape this year according to the National Council of Women (NCW). This, however, doesn't count marital rape because the law doesn't count it as a criminal offence.

This is a prime reason why the cases which stood at 142 and 112 in January and February respectively decreased to 90, 12, and 19 in March, April, May – the three months was when India was locked in.

With no possibility of stepping out of their homes for a haven, thousands of women have been forced to become mothers as a result of sexual violence during this lockdown.

To make everybody aware of it, Dentsu Impact, a creative agency under the Dentu Aegis Network (DAN) has conceptualised and executed a digital video for mother's day.

Called 'Mothers Without A Choice', it's a minute-long black and white film – a chilling testament to this dark and cruel reality and a line from its description makes you pause and wonder - Women became mothers not out of love, but by force, and without choice.

Anupama Ramaswamy
Anupama Ramaswamy

Anupama Ramaswamy, national creative director, Dentsu Impact says that she was thinking about the subject for a month. "... When one day I heard screams coming from one of my neighbour’s flat in the tower. This made me read up a little more on domestic violence to understand the problem better," she revealed.

"But honestly, the idea struck me only when I got swarmed with Mother’s Day briefs. And I realised the problem doesn’t stop at just the violence but goes on to become the pain of unwanted pregnancies."

Ramaswamy told us about connecting with My Choices foundation to further the idea. She said that the the intention was to underline the fact that even though most women consider motherhood to be a blessing, there are also those for whom motherhood comes without a choice.

Our ears were equally attentive to the script as our eyes were to the video, it had us hooked from the go. When we asked Ramaswamy about the copy, she told us that it was Monish Gupta, Dentsu Impact's group creative director who wrote the powerful narrative. "We must have gone through close to 25 drafts before zeroing in on the one which finally saw the light of day," she revealed.

All films today are shot using limited resources and lots of ingenuity and this digital film caught the viewer's eye from the go.

"Our agency producers Dawa Lama, Kriti Khandelwal, our Creative Director Priyanka Dandia, Monish and I brainstormed and put some references together, keeping the whole lockdown situation in mind. Post which I approached Fusion Films to see if they would be interested in doing this project," responds Ramaswamy.

"The producers Geeta and Allan were excited and helped us put this lovely film together. For a change, we did not have a director. So, I wrote out a detailed brief to Allan and Geeta with my vision. The idea was to use women from various age groups and socio-economic backgrounds. The brief was to highlight the claustrophobic pain that they go through. In the video, they don’t utter a single word, but their eyes are pleading for us to help. Some almost in tears, but holding back, all the way to the last shot of a woman in bed who opens her eyes suddenly."

She told us that the challenge was that all these were needed to be self-shot. So the team auditioned multiple women and finally chose the ones who emoted the pain in a subtle manner, to work with the music which was also designed to make people sit up and take notice. "Debjan, the editor worked with us to create a pattern towards the end," she revealed.

Commenting on the music, she told us, "Sameer Uddin was briefed on the track. The ask - to bring out the pain, angst, and frustration that’s tearing these women apart inside. All the emotions that are born out of their torturous existence. This was mixed with the sound of telephones, to remind the viewer that rescue is just a phone call away. We kept the tonality dark to emphasise the seriousness of the issue."

We also asked Ramaswamy about they chose the theme of communication after My Choices Foundation briefed them. She revealed, "We discussed this idea about forced motherhood, and they agreed that this was an important issue to talk about."

It is important to bear in mind, that this is a very sensitive issue, and needs careful portrayal. Not many have the willingness to put the spotlight on this themselves. Of course, it’s good to give hope and celebrate love, especially during these trying times. But what’s more critical is the need for the world to collectively realise and acknowledge a problem, and then try to help with a solution.