2 Stars (out of 4)
G – A Wanton Heart makes its world premiere at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival on October 4, 2015, at 2 p.m.
Without a strong narrative as a base, rookie filmmaker Rahul Dahiya’s G – A Wanton Heart can’t be the meaningful examination of cultural ills it aspires to be. Instead, it’s mostly social justice torture porn.
G has no true protagonists, only a handful of characters from the same village whose importance to the story varies over time. We are first introduced to a thief named Keku as he tries to molest his cousin’s wife while she sleeps. He then tries to rape Preeti, the kidnapped owner of a van he’s stolen.
The rape attempt is interrupted by Virender, the leader of Keku’s bandit trio, though he’s not in a hurry to intervene. Virender switches seats with Keku, and himself leans on the woman’s shoulder before laying his head in her lap.
The car theft sequence highlights a recurring theme in the film: women have zero autonomy over their own bodies. Men grab and grope, leer and proposition, with no negative consequences for their lascivious behavior.
Every man in G is a horny pervert. Every one. The men who aren’t actively trying to have sex with women are watching some other man try to do so. Boys watch as a teenager photographs a naive adolescent girl under her clothes, and toothless old men gawk at those same photos on their mobile phones.
Whenever a woman tries to act on her own sexual desires, she is punished for it. Heck, even if she’s violated against her will, she’s still punished. Women and girls are held entirely responsible for their own sexual purity, and it’s seemingly the mission of the whole village to police the conduct of its female residents.
Though Dahiya tries to make a point about repressive sexual mores in rural India — going so far as to end the film with statistics about honor killings — the message fails to connect without a narrative to anchor it. The absence of a clear protagonist (or protagonists) keeps the audience from connecting with the characters.
The vision of Indian village life that Dahiya paints is a portrait of hell on earth, particularly for women. One wonders how any village females survive long enough to bear their own children when every infraction is punishable by death.
Issues such as honor killings, gender bias, and women’s safety remain a huge problem in India, and yet, clearly villages survive. Though mainstream Bollywood movies often paint an overly rosy picture of village life, there is certainly some basis in reality for the wholesome simplicity Bollywood admires. Dahiya’s depiction lacks context.
In G – A Wanton Heart, there is no hope for any of the female characters, nowhere to turn. The men who claim to love them — boyfriends, brothers, fathers — won’t protect them, and are often among those calling for their deaths. With no chance for a better life, why live? And yet real Indian women persevere, village girls dreaming of school and futures they define for themselves.
It’s not that the movie needs to be hopeful, just that there must be room for hope. Without that, G – A Wanton Heart becomes an inadvertent glorification of the very patriarchal violence its creator abhors.
- G – A Wanton Heart at IMDb