Trigger warning: Rape, Violence
While the mainstream film industry is busy glorifying toxic characters like Kabir Singh, Terribly Tiny Tales, on the other hand, released a short film called Suno on June 21st, starring Sumeet Vyas and Amrita Puri. Justification and glorification of non-consensual relationships, stalking, male entitlement and abuse which runs amok in Bollywood movies are in complete contrast to what this short film by TTT wants to convey. Directed and written by Shubham Yogi, this 11-minute movie revolves around a couple’s experimental night in bed which leads to an injury inflicted on the wife by her husband.
The ‘supposed accident’ in the film successfully sheds light on the nuanced nature of domestic violence and marital rape within Indian society. The film begins by portraying an injured wife whose husband got experimental in the bed the previous night and ended up hitting her. In a state of complete denial that violence was inflicted on her by her loving and caring husband, she keeps giving excuses for the injury to her family and colleagues. She eventually starts questioning the incident when she is encouraged to join the support group meeting by her colleague Mrs Dawar. This leads to a transition in both the characters and a revelation that the sexual intercourse which took place between them was non-consensual, that is, it was marital rape
The ‘supposed accident’ in the film successfully sheds light on the nuanced nature of domestic violence and marital rape within Indian society.
The most important aspect of the film is the portrayal of the husband. There is no demonised depiction of him because it is very easy to point out a man who is being openly abusive towards his wife. The character played by Sumeet Vyas, is a loving husband whom we come across making food for his wife in the kitchen and asking her to take a day off because he had ‘accidentally’ hit her. However, he pokes fun at people who call him a ‘wife-beater’ and claims that Mrs Dawar is a ‘nosy woman’.
He suggests his wife the excuses she can give if someone inquires about the injury. His misogyny is out in the open when he tells her not to attend the meetings anymore and asserts his dominance over her. The loving and caring husband who is capable of violating his wife brings forth the idea that marital rape is so prevalent in the Indian society that it has become inconspicuous. Moreover, the couple belongs to an urban setting thus, throwing off the myth that marital rape and domestic violence are limited to rural areas.
The film portrays the denial and realisation on the part of both the characters. The wife makes fun of people at work asking her if she’s alright and is initially bothered with the interference in her personal life. However, she ultimately realises that she was abused and raped by her own husband. This state of denial indicates that the concept of consent and marital rape is the least talked about within Indian society. Marital rape is normalised to the extent that women don’t even realise that they are being violated by their husbands and even if they do, they find it impossible to come to terms with it. Whereas the husband in the film flinches every time his wife talks about the injury indicating that perhaps unconsciously he is aware that he might have crossed the line but decides to see it as an ‘accident’.
When confronted he denies the rape accusations and instead victimises himself. He claims that he can’t ever inflict pain on her which shows that he didn’t even have an inkling that he did something wrong. The ingrained patriarchal role of the husband prevented him to ask for his wife’s consent before intercourse, thus allowing him to hit her as he simply wanted to fulfil his own fantasies. The title of the film rightly asks men to ‘listen’ as the wife had, in fact, refused his advances but he turned a deaf ear to her dissent. This dominance which is nothing but rape is never seen as problematic by the Indian society where the law doesn’t recognise it as a criminal offence.
When she places a pepper spray in the room as a deterrent, she establishes the importance of consent during sexual intercourse and dissent against marital rape
The film also focuses on the importance of support groups and how they help a rape survivor come to terms with what happened to them. Unlike her husband who kept avoiding her discomfort, in the support group she openly discusses how she felt that night and hence realises that ‘it’s the oldest way to get hurt’. This realisation dawns upon her when she comes across other women in the group who have taken up different ways to protect themselves from their husbands.
When she places a pepper spray in the room as a deterrent, she establishes the importance of consent during sexual intercourse and dissent against marital rape. Within a short span of time, the movie covers a lot of aspects regarding marital rape and criticises its normalisation within Indian society. Domestic violence concealed as an ‘accident’ and non-consensual sex sugar coated as experiments in bed indicate that these patriarchal notions are so subtle that they occur in households where couples are happily married.
Also read in Hindi: सुनो! तुमने मेरी मर्जी पूछी?