intersectional revolutionary journal

That Day After Everyday: Looking for a Female Mard

By Amrita Misra
Red Monthly | November 2013

Just watched That Day After Everyday¬†which started off brilliantly, and I almost thought this is what was needed to fill the reasoning void of increasing sexual harassment of girls and women in modern societies like the towns & cities in India. I’m not concerning this review on the rural India, because like most technological advancements, regressive developments also are the first to trickle down to these pockets of populations. Since its inception, the Indian constitution has granted equal rights to its citizens of both sexes, from right to education to equal pay for equal work. However, religious traditionalism has chained stones around the progressing footsteps of modern India. More and more women are getting educated, but proportionately not aspiring for a ‘career’ as means of self-sustainance. More and more women are getting ‘jobs’ outside of home or participating in outdoorsy kind of recreations, but this has also proportionately increased the places where they can be harassed just for being females.

The opening scene in the short-movie, with a woman hurrying to cook breakfast & tea for the male character before leaving for work, is a very common scene in many households across India. The girls or women grow up to know what chores are to be completed around the house. This could be juxtaposed against what boys or men are expected to do around the house as well. In many cases the house runs like clockwork. The drudgery may just come in when the women find work outside of the house without a reduction in household responsibilities. That too, it should be considered a drudgery, when the women themselves feel it to be so. Some women may even derive pleasure in serving meals to their family or taking care of them in their traditional roles. Therefore, for the scene to dramatically change at the end of the movie wherein the man is in the kitchen making tea, after witnessing the girl beat up the street hoodlums sends not only mixed signals but also the wrong message across.

First of all, working in the kitchen should not be identified as drudgery by default, nor relegated to those who are not assertive within their personal periphery. Because if that were the case then the girl should have initiated punitive action against the man in her own house, who has psychologically and physically set her up for a life of (household) drudgery, a form of harassment for being the female in the relationship. She is already exhausted and frustrated from her role as the woman of the house, even before stepping out to face the harassment on the streets and at workplace. I was left confused with this supposed comic outcome at the end, because I am not sure whether the man is making tea for the woman because he is physically intimidated by her, or he feels she deserves a cup of tea after the exertion from her street fight, or he realizes how as a regular well-meaning man, he has been instrumental in – both subtly & overtly – fostering sexual harassment of woman in general, or did he realize that harassment based on gender could take many forms; that, the woman should be spared from such inhuman treatment because they epitomize ‘sacrifice’ and ‘love’?

All in all, this short film is overrated, reactionary and misses the entire point, while ending up glorifying the same machismo that it pretends to be up against. Like Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap too searches for the ideal Mard. Only a female Mard he intends to settle for instead.

The three working girls in the movie, who represent the majority of women in towns and cities, are thoroughly relatable. Their family lives, the constant reminders from their well-wishers of their vulnerability, is also lived experiences for most girls in India. Therefore, ideally their backgrounds should have been posited as among the main roots to the prevalent tentacles of harassment of women. The dialogues and discussions in households should have focused on how to raise children with human values, or make one’s own family members aware of chauvinistic practices and aspirations within the four walls, which when spills out adorns the garb of harassment of women.

The events quickly turn bizarre in the short film, when the women draw strength from their female martial arts instructor. To me, this instructor quite simply displays macho behavior and even smokes to underscore her empowered status. Does this by some way take a dig at docile women to prompt them to get inspired and become instantly combative when faced with physical threat? Self-defense as a set of skills should be mandatory for girls to acquire, and I do believe that would make a women safer in most physically threatening situation, but – and here’s the bummer – only if all men are barred from learning the same skills. Moreover, self-defense skills shall not come to aid as one gets overpowered by perpetrator when the victim is outnumbered, when the victim is a child, or has a physically or cognitively limiting disability. In many instances, women can ward off physical harassment through self-defense techniques and then keep praying for no retaliation from the egotist perpetrator in form of even worse forms of violence, for example.

Ironically for this movie, in both scenes where the two protagonist women were getting ready for work, the background narration from newspaper and TV included the mention of the rape and death from related injuries of a 5-year old girl. Self-defense or fearlessness as tools to ward off such physical danger could never have worked for this little girl, nor shall for any other child. Therefore, to propose self-defense skills as a solution to curtail sexual harassment is a trivial proposition for a problem that is so pervasive and multidimensional.

I vividly remember an incident that had occurred during my college days in Bhubaneswar, India. I was at a gas station filling up my scooter, and quite predictably, two men in a motorcycle parked right next to me and started ‘eve teasing’. There were few others around, including the gas station worker, and all of us were acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, until something a guy said really ticked me off. I got off my scooter, went around to the guys and started noting their license plate number on my palm. Surprisingly they sped off. I came home to narrate this incident to my parents with a sense of accomplishment, but only to be admonished in no uncertain terms to ignore such ‘hoodlums’ unless I’m physically threatened, in which case to seek police protection if needed, or be prepared for retaliatory actions like an acid attack to my face by such men!

Who are these men? Director Anurag Kashyap makes yet another assumption that is quite bewildering. More than just a thorny angle, for me, of this movie was the stress on the ‘dhobi’ community and how the lower caste (possibly) unemployed youths as perpetrators of violence against women. This completely overlooks and almost deliberately obfuscates the ways castes intersect with civility in modern India. “Eve-teasing” as a phenomenon is neither limited to, nor remains a dominant feature of one social group, rather it remains a feature of a thoroughly guarded patriarchal society. And considering that patriarchy in India is sustained through religious conservatism and moral hypocrisies of the Brahminical structure, it is rather intriguing to notice that Kashyap chose to create villains specifically out of the “Dhobis”.

All in all, this short film is overrated, reactionary and misses the entire point, while ending up glorifying the same machismo that it pretends to be up against. Like Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap too searches for the ideal Mard. Only a female Mard he intends to settle for instead.


Amrita Misra is a conscientious objector to the racist, sexist, homophobic, sweatshop-laden and greed-driven world order. Hailing from Orissa, and living in New York, she identifies herself as a feminist of color. She can be found on amritamisra.com.

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