A film that strikes you at your core Nisha Pahuja’s harrowing and uncomfortable To Kill A Tiger shows us that hope can always grow, even in the most hopeless of situations -utterly fantastic.
In a small Indian village, Ranjit wakes up to find that his 13-year-old daughter has not returned from a family wedding. A few hours later, she’s found stumbling home. After being dragged into the woods, she was raped by three men. Ranjit goes to the police, and the men are arrested. But Ranjit’s relief is short-lived, as the villagers and their leaders launch a sustained campaign to force the family to drop the charges.
Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill A Tiger is such a brave film. Brave due to the story it is telling, brave for Ranjit and his daughter to be a part of the film and brave for those to square up to almost clashes to show us that this type of horrible thing happens. This fight for justice for a daughter is as compelling as they come, with Pahuja’s observation filmmaking allowing us to have access to comments and situations you forget still exist in the world.
Make no mistake, very few people in Ranjit’s village come out in any form of glory, be it the people who try to shame the family for doing this to the three men, not only by taking them to court to be rightfully punished but to have it all filmed. To those that try to find reasoning for the men’s actions. There are no logical reasons other than they are monsters who preyed on a child and hurt her in the worst way imaginable.
Yet, seeing the To Kill A Tiger play out, you get to realise how often this happens, not just in India but everywhere. From famous people to those on the lowest rung, there is always an excuse that if those who commit the acts get prosecuted, we should be lenient, “they are young”. It is no excuse and can never be one. At times To Kill A Tiger feels absurd. How can so many people willingly try and get these men off with no punishment? Why is it so hard to get retribution for something that seems pretty cut-and-dry? Most importantly, why can it be that it is so hard to believe someone that something that happened to her happened?
Another question asked is, would this have gotten as far as it had if a camera wasn’t following the journey? You imagine it wouldn’t have, that this family’s brave fight would already have been swept under the rug, the remnants only to be remembered by the victims. That thought lingers long with you during and after the film. Silence needs to be broken, and Pahuja and her camera do their darnedest to ensure it is.
Pahuja tries to be as observant as possible in her film, but when so many people are openly glaring at the camera, there is little she can do. We need to see films like To Kill a Tiger to see people fight back against the violence committed against them. Hope needs to be there, and it needs to prosper. Despite what people try to do to the family, there is a realisation that shame need not be there anymore, not for Ranjit’s family, but for every family. Speaking out is a must; it is only then that the tide may change.
To Kill A Tiger drags you through so many emotions throughout its runtime. Anger is heavily prevalent throughout proceedings; by the film’s end, we are motivated and energised to see profound change in the world. Will it happen today or tomorrow? No, but it has to start somewhere, right?
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