Why did ‘15, Park Avenue’ disturb me so much that I cannot fall asleep, even three hours after the movie ended ? Partly it is to do with the fact that it is not a happy movie – it’s about a schizophrenic girl and her family. I think that any movie on such a theme would leave one a bit disturbed. But a large part of my distress is due to a rape scene – which though handled sensitively – shocks one out of one’s illusions.
In the scene, the heroine is gang-raped in a room in a small hotel in some small town on the Bihar-Bengal border. The location is irrelevant. Why they do it is also irrelevant, so I will not go into further detail here. Throughout the scene, the camera is with the audience outside the room, gazing down a long corridor outside. There are people (both men and women) coming and going along the corridor, coming out of rooms, entering other rooms, all the while the heroine’s muffled cries of pain are clearly audible, yet no one so much as blinks. Only one man stops in mid-stride and thinks for a second or two before shrugging and continuing on his way.
I think the scene disturbed me so deeply because I have always assumed that I am safe so long as there are lots of people around, and this belied that assumption. A scary reality check for one who manages to relax at night on the assumption that if she screams loudly, people will rush to her rescue.
Though such illusions get shattered every time a ghastly incident occurs - like the rape in the train in Bombay some time ago – one’s peace and sanity are so dependent on belief that after some time the incident is wiped off one’s memory and one lapses into the illusion of safety again. I suppose it is in some ways an opiate, a bit like religion, some believe in God, some believe in their fellow men; and are able to live non-dysfunctional lives on the basis of this belief.