Vikalp: Portrays Uneasy Reality Of Sexual Harassment Survivors

Dipankar Sarkar

The body is not a thing, it is a situation

–––Simon de Bouvier, Second Sex

A few years ago the global outrage and resistance exhibited by the #MeToo movement had its intended consequence on Indian society too. A lot of females showed courage to come forward and admit being victims of sexual coercion at their workplaces and as well private spaces. This social movement against sexual abuse had opened up a Pandora’s box of problems with issues raised over the gender hierarchy. But the accused denied the charges they faced, and they are entitled to be considered innocent until proven guilty, by our society. In due course of time, the collective outrage initiated from the crusade had died prematurely. So under the present scenario, a short film like Dheeraj Jindal’s ‘Vikalp’ (2021) stands as a testimony of the sexual harassment, exploitation and assault against women by overpowering men.

The sixteen-minute-long narrative of the film depicts the plight of an ambitious woman Shivani, played by Neha Sharma, who is proficient in her corporate assignments. One day her boss Armaan, played by Gaurav Sharma, during office hours molests her. She suffers from the turmoil of the incident and her mind is in a state of shock.

She belongs to a small town where girls are not allowed to step out of their homes after 6 pm. The current position in her career, which she has achieved after crossing a lot of hurdles, was not easy navigation. The disapproving attitude of her father regarding her professional life is proof of her battle for survival. Now, if she reports the incident to the HR of her company there or files a police complaint there could be fatal consequences and this is her dilemma in a nutshell. This fear of losing their secured position in society is a practical situation and one of the prime reasons why women stay away from reporting such acts of criminality. Even the scene where Shivani’s flatmate did not inform anyone being blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend for sexual favours also brings into light how predators of the society take advantage of the women’s fear of embarrassment and shame once such instances of impeachment are revealed in society.

As a concept the film is applaudable but the finesse required to tell a tale dealing with the social issues and the subjugation of women is missing from the structure. Technically, all the departments have worked their best to bring their expertise to the story. Performance-wise Neha Sharma is given most of the screen as an obvious choice. But she prefers to adhere herself to one particular expression- a helpless crying lady in distress. We feel sympathy for the trauma Shivani has encountered but could not empathize with her. The supporting cast of the film also does not add much to bring weightage to their role.

The psychological depth that one expects from such stories is missing. The filmmaker has kept an opening ending of the film and has attempted to express the unendingness of these issues within our society. As a film that tries to present a scornful look at the oppressive treatment and harassment at the workplace, Vikalp conveys emotions and engagement to a certain level.

If you wish then you can watch the film here.