Subhash K Jha (DNA; March 20, 2017)

Moral police and women’s activists are up in arms against Badrinath Ki Dulhania producer Karan Johar and director Shashank Khaitan for turning male molestation into a joke. The scene in question occurs when the target of ignoble intentions in a dark alley in Singapore isn’t Alia Bhatt, but rather the film’s hero, Varun Dhawan. When he is rescued by the heroine, his clothes are in tatters and he is left covering his modesty with Alia’s dupatta and everyone present shares a laugh at his predicament.

Rape and molestation are acutely sensitive subjects in the public domain. Naturally, when Salman Khan drew an analogy between wrestling and rape, he was reprimanded. However, Rajkumar Hirani got away with his wicked wordplay in 3 Idiots (remember the hilarious mix-up between chamatkaar and balatkaar) because of the way the joke was handled.

As far as BKD goes, Khaitan says the intention was not to trivialise or ridicule the crime. In his defence, he says, “The intent was to show Badri’s character at an all-time low. Emotionally he was down and out. Vaidehi (Bhatt) had stripped him of his ‘mardangi’ when she asked him to call his father and he couldn’t. He was emotionally defenceless and was unable to even protect his physical ‘izzat’. The humour was to comfort and not trivialise the issue.”

Khaitan points out that scenes using rape as a subversive tool of satire are not unknown. “One of the most legendary scenes in recent times is Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots scene. If taken in the wrong spirit, even that can seem offensive.”