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How far would you go to protect your family?

In today's day and age, the idea that “family is everything” is something you begin to learn at a young age. No matter the generation and no matter what part of the world you come from, this idea impacts almost everyone. Now, I know what you may be thinking, the concept that “family is everything” can’t possibly pertain to all. There is anger, sadness, and a lot of betrayal that comes with family, as well. However, for a small town man who is faced with an unfathomable situation, he is willing to go through all means necessary in order to protect his family. 

In Kerala India, the concept of “family”  is deeply ingrained in societal and cultural values. Indian society often places a high value on respect for elders and maintaining family honor. It is crucial in context for continuity, as it plays a central role in tradition, rituals, and passing down  cultural heritage. 

With that being said, when a young girl in India goes through sexual assault, the societal reaction may differ. A lack of awareness about the nature of sexual violence can contribute to victim-blaming attitudes. In unfortunate cases, such as this, victims, including daughters, may face societal ostracization or rejection from some quarters due to misplaced notions of shame or fear of tarnishing a family's reputation. 

In the 2015 movie Drishyam, directed by Jeethu Joseph, a man named George covers up a murder caused by his daughter in order to protect her dignity. The first duration of the movie is placed to clearly portray a typical happy family, making it relatable and familiar to the audience. Yet, this portrayal completely vanishes in the second half of the film, when a young boy, who is the son of a high powered officer, tries to taunt the oldest daughter with nude images of herself in exchange for sexual favors. Frightened, the daughter strikes him on the head, accidentally killing him. When George comprehends the gravity of the situation, he takes decisive actions to safeguard his family’s future from being jeopardized. 

The emotional impact in Drishyam is heightened through the moral ambiguity surrounding the central event: murder. The story blurs the lines between right and wrong, prompting viewers to reflect on their own moral compass. Evoking a sense of empathy, where the character's actions cause an emotional connection between the watcher and them, while unraveling layers of deception and potential consequences. Despite the acknowledgement of an unlawful act, the storyline amplifies the ethical beliefs of family bonds, and how far a person would go in order to protect them. 

George and his family dealt with intense emotions of fear, guilt, and the overall burden of keeping the situation a secret. They faced many challenges of maintaining a facade of normalcy while dealing with the stress of the unknown. The need in protecting one another strained each and everyone of the family’s members' relationships and their communication to the outside world. George's decision to conceal the crime strongly affected his relationship with his wife, Rani, creating moments of tension and emotional distance. As well as the children, the oldest daughter specifically, felt not only the weight of the secret but the pyschological impact of murder. The fear of the truth being revealed took an emotional toll, adding to complexities within the family dynamic. 

Despite inevitably getting away with murder, George and his family must live with the guilt for the rest of their lives. Constantly being reminded by what they have done and always trying to be one step ahead of the police. George’s deteriorating physical state throughout the movie was a keen factor of this. His sleepless nights are depicted through his disheveled appearance, bloodshot eyes, and obvious exhaustion. Close-ups of his face revealed deep lines of stress, and certain instances where he lacked proper focus as if his mind was elsewhere emphasized his built up anxiety. The subtle details within George’s physicality painted a vivid picture of effects of dealing with such dignifying situation.

As suspicion mounts and rumors circulate about the missing person, the family becomes isolated and begins to face social ostracism. The community's judgment intensifies as the police start to uncover more and more details that point to Geroge and his family as victims. In Indian communities, societal expectations and moral scrutiny can be particularly stringent. The family’s reputation is closely tied to their standing within the community, and any sign of wrongdoing can lead to complete loss of respect. As for Western societies, individual privacy is often emphasized but as for Indian communities they tend to place a higher value on collective reputation. If the family’s reputation within the community is damaged, it would significantly impact social interactions as well as support networks for future job and educational opportunities. 

As the credits roll, the lingering questions remains-how far would you go to protect your family? This family's journey serves as a prominent reflection, challenging us to wonder the profound mesaures we may take in the name of family. 

Edited by Chloe Mansola

Image: 'Mohanlal Pencil Drawing'by Ajikumar licensed by CC BY 4.0 DEED

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