When I was in school I watched a Hindi film know as ‘ Mirch Masala’ ( Chilli Powder) The film was directed by Ketan Mehta. It starred Naseruddin Shah and Smita Patil in the lead roles. The film is set in colonial in the early 1940s. The plot begins with an arrogant Indian local tax collector and with his henchmen exploiting villagers. The tax collector and his men were harassing women . The village headman who was not strong to oppose him even supplied him with women from the village for his pleasure. No one had courage to protest against such violence.
However the story takes a different turn when the tax collector boldly asks Sonbai a young woman from the village for sexual favours, and harassed her. Enraged, Sonabai, in an act of defense, slaps the tax collector. She then had to flee immediately with the soldiers and henchmen in hot pursuit.She takes refuge in a spice factory where red chillies are grounded into powder. The women of the village worked here. Sonabai and the women were supported by a watchman and male school teacher who strategize to end such violence.
Sonabai organized women in the factory and when the tax collector and his men raided the factory the women in factory mount a sudden and surprising defense. They attack the tax collector with freshly ground red chilli powder in teams of two. The film ends with the tax collector on his knees, screaming in pain as the chilli burns his face and eyes.
The situation of women and girls being ‘eve teased’, bullied, harassed and sexually abused has not changed in India. In fact such violence has increased. Now when women are no longer confined within homes and are out in the world, they face harassment and abuse schools, colleges and workplaces.