By Jugal Mody
Anurag Kashyap’s short That Day After Everyday “takes up an extremely sensitive issue of eve teasing and molestation”. It was released on October 29, 2013 and has gained a million views till date. Suffice it to say that this 21-minute film has done exceedingly well.
The film opens with a patriarch lecturing a woman (the protagonist) khap-style, discouraging her from doing anything (except staying indoors) by telling her horror stories of men committing atrocities on women. Then we have a matriarch discouraging her daughter-in-law from going to work, with the sound of a news channel recounting stories of gender violence playing in the background. The two young women then meet on their way out of their respective houses, heading to work as two guys watching them film them on a cellphone. They are joined by a third woman, and together they have the same body language as you’d notice in a crew of protagonists who have survived some kind of a post-apocalyptic situation, leaving their safehouse and they are sure that zombies or monsters exist.
Then we meet the main antagonist, who chucks a stone at the protagonist to get her attention and tease her some. The encounter ends with her two friends getting chased away by the goon’s guys while the protagonist barely escapes after a sprint for her life. Cut to: The two friends are on a bus, and some guy is pushing against them. One of them elbows his dick the next time he tries. They are pretty thrilled about having done that. The first girl who was being teased by the villain is shown at her office where a couple of guys are shooting a video of her while providing lewd commentary to the footage.
In the evening the girls get together to wait for “Didi” when they discuss the bus incident and have a good laugh, feeling all empowered. Then we meet Didi (Sandhya Mridul) who is dropping them home after training them in self defense. And on the drive, she gives them a pep talk against fear and victimhood. She drops them outside their compound and waits for them to reach their houses, knowing that the villain and crew will be hanging out there. When they spot the guys, they immediately call Didi, who encourages them to fearlessly walk through, promising backup in case shit goes down.
And it does. After a silent staring match and some villainous laughter, the first blow is struck by the most harassed girl (the protagonist with the khap husband). Followed by a full hand-to-hand combat scene. A lot of well-executed and brilliantly-shot action. (With a group of men having gathered, watching and staring. And Sandhya Mridul grimacing from a distance, as the girls soon gain an upper-hand in the fight without needing backup.) This scene open-ends with one of the girls holding a giant stone over the main antagonist’s head and blaring police sirens as her lecturing husband stands with the gathered crowd and watches. Cut to: the next morning, he stands over the kitchen counter, fumbling and attempting to straighten out his act by making tea for the main protagonist.
Why did I narrate the entire film to you? Because I wanted you to grasp the full meaning of all that I am about to say next: The film belongs to the “creature horror, mainstream” genre. The actors delivered worthy performances. The music fit the genre. The production values were fantastic.
While being truly a “hero story” in its structure, this movie clearly passes the first two steps of the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There were more than two women in this movie. They talked to each other (there was some exchange between them, for sure). What it lacked in purely elemental terms was three women bonding over something other than pernicious patriarchy – a conversation that did not circle around men – thus quite unfortunately failing the test. To put things in perspective, even Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof – blatantly an exploitation film – passes the Bechdel Test.