India's Daughter

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India's Daughter
Directed byLeslee Udwin
Produced byLeslee Udwin
Written byLeslee Udwin
Music byKrsna Solo
Edited byAnuradha Singh
  • Assassin Films
  • Tathagat Films[1]
Distributed byBerta Film
Release date
  • 4 March 2015 (2015-03-04)
Running time
58 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

India's Daughter is a documentary film directed by Leslee Udwin and is part of the BBC's ongoing Storyville series.[3] The film is based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh who was a physiotherapy student.[4][5]

The film was scheduled to be aired on TV channels round the world on March 8, 2015 to coincide with International Women's Day. However, when excerpts of the film, which included an interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the four men convicted of the rape and murder, were broadcast, a court stay order prohibiting the broadcast was obtained by the Indian police.[6] The BBC complied with the request and did not air the film in India. Yet it aired outside of India on 4 March, was uploaded on YouTube, and soon went viral via shares on social media. On 5 March, the Indian government directed YouTube to block the video in India.[4][7]


Students protesting at Raisina Hill, Rajpath, December 2012

The documentary is based on the Delhi gang rape, an incident that occurred on 16 December 2012 in South Delhi.[8] The victim, Jyoti Singh, watched the film Life of Pi with a male friend, Awindra Pratap Pandey,[9] after which they boarded a privately run bus to return home.[10] She was assaulted and gang raped on the bus; her friend was also physically assaulted during the incident. Both of them were subsequently thrown from the bus. She received emergency treatment including several surgeries in India and Singapore but died on 29 December 2012 due to the serious nature of the injuries she sustained in the assault.[11]

The incident received widespread media coverage. It was condemned and triggered widespread public protest and criticism of the Indian government for not providing enough protection to women. International media covered the incident only after persistent public protests.[12]

Six men were arrested, including a 17-year-old juvenile, and accused as perpetrators of the assaults. One detainee was found dead in his prison cell, as a result of a possible suicide, although his relatives alleged that he had been murdered.[13] The four accused men were found guilty and sentenced to death,[14] whilst the juvenile was given 3 years imprisonment, under the Juvenile Justice Act.[15]


The film is part of the BBC's ongoing Storyville series.[3] It was planned to be broadcast on International Women's Day, 8 March 2015,[16] in India on NDTV 24x7 and in UK on BBC Four.[17] On 1 March 2015, it was revealed that the film-makers had interviewed one of the rapists while he was being held in the Tihar jail.[18][19] Soon, the news was picked up by Indian media outlets.[19][20] The Indian government blocked its broadcast in India by obtaining a court order on 4 March 2015. The BBC said it would comply with the order and did not broadcast the film in India.[2] In the UK however, the BBC moved the transmission forward to 4 March and it was shown on that date.[21] The film was also uploaded on YouTube and soon went viral with various shares on social media. On 5 March, the Indian government directed YouTube to block the video in India.[4] YouTube complied with the orders.[7] The film has generated a great deal of controversy in both India and worldwide.

Udwin has said it was the protests in response to the rape that drew her to make this film. "I was absolutely awestruck by the ordinary men and women of India who poured out onto the streets in response to this horrific gang rape and who demanded change for women's rights. And I thought the least I could do was amplify their voices."[22]


One of the convicted rapists serving life imprisonment, Mukesh Singh, was interviewed for the documentary. He said in the interview "When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy."[23] He later added, "A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy … A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night … Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing indecent things, wearing indecent clothes."[10] A report by the Navbharat Times has suggested that Mukesh Singh was paid 40,000 (about £420) to do the interview. According to the report, initially he had asked for 200,000, but the amount was negotiated down and the sum was given to his family.[24] However, the filmmakers deny that he was paid for the interview.[25]

A. P. Singh, a defence lawyer in the case, was shown saying, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” Asked later if he stood by those comments, he insisted that he did.[26]


India's Daughter was given a U.S. theatrical release on October 23, 2015.[27]


The film received a 2015 Peabody Award as well as positive reviews in the British press, from Sonia Faleiro in The Guardian[28] and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent.[29]

Some activists have criticised the film. Feminist campaigner Kavita Krishnan, who appears in the film, praised aspects of the film[30] but stated that the film's title reinforces patriarchal attitudes that Indian women are expected to "behave themselves". She says that the film is part of a wider "white saviour" mentality. She also said the film failed to profile Indian men who are "on the side of law and order and morality"[30][31]

Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, actresses and ambassadors of Because I Am a Girl, expressed their support to the director and film.[32][33] On 9 March, the documentary film screened during an event at Baruch College, New York City, which was attended by Meryl Streep, Chris Martin, Dakota Fanning and Freida Pinto.[34]

The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stéphane Dujarric stated on 5 March, "I'm not going to comment on the unspeakable comments that were made by the person accused of raping this girl, but I think the secretary-general has spoken very clearly on the need to halt violence against women and on the need for men to get involved in halting violence against women and decrying it loud and clear every time it occurs."[35]

In an interview on 5 March 2015, the parents of the victim said that everybody should watch the documentary.[36] Bollywood figures including Anushka Sharma, Abhishek Kapoor, Sonal Chauhan, Twinkle Khanna and Punit Malhotra condemned the ban on the same day.[37][38]

Meenakshi Lekhi, a Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson, claimed that in screening the documentary on BBC 4 - which he falsely claimed was a channel that did not cover "social" issues - filmmakers didn't stick to the stated objective of a "social purpose" and were instead trying to benefit "commercially" by creating controversies,[39] despite the fact that BBC 4 - like all BBC channels in the UK - does not show and is not funded by advertising.

Avanindra Pandey, the friend of the victim who was injured in the attack, said, "The facts are hidden and the content is fake. Only Jyoti and I know what happened on that night and the documentary is far from truth."[40]


India's Daughter won the Best Documentary award at the San Diego Film Festival in 2015.[41]

Ban in India[edit]

On 1 March 2015, the film-makers revealed that they had interviewed one of the rapists, when he was being held in the Tihar jail.[18][19] The news was picked up by Indian media outlets soon afterwards.[19][20] The statements made by the convict created public outcry and screening issues in India.[42]

The Delhi Police filed a First Information Report (FIR) on 3 March against the filmmakers under Sections 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505(1)(b) (With intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public), 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service).[43] The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Economic Offences Wing) of New Delhi, Rajneesh Garg said, "These excerpts of the interview as published are highly offensive and have already created a situation of tension and fear among women in society. Therefore, in the interest of justice and maintenance of public order, an application was made in court seeking restraining order from publishing, transmitting, uploading and broadcasting the interview."[44]

The Indian government blocked the broadcast in India by obtaining a court order on 4 March 2015. BBC sources said they would comply with the order in India.[2] In the United Kingdom, however, the BBC broadcast the film on the evening of 4 March.[21] The film was also uploaded to YouTube, and soon went viral with several shares on the social media. On 5 March, the Indian government requested that YouTube block the video in India[4] and YouTube complied the same day.[7] NDTV expressed its silent protest by screening flickering lamp on a black screen during the scheduled time slot.[45]

On 4 March in the Indian Parliament, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, "Our government condemns the incident of December 16, 2012 in the strongest possible terms and will not allow any attempt by any individual, group or organisation to leverage such unfortunate incidents for commercial benefit. The respect and dignity of women, constitutes a core value of our culture and tradition. Our government remains fully committed to ensuring safety and dignity of women."[46][47] The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs M. Venkaiah Naidu said in the same debate in the Parliament, "We can ban the documentary in India but there is a conspiracy to defame India and the documentary can be telecast outside. We will also be examining what should be done."[48] Rajya Sabha member Javed Akhtar said, "It's good that this documentary has been made. Crores of men in India have now come to know that they think like a rapist. If it is sounding dirty, they have to think."[49] (A crore is equal to ten million.)

The film's director, Leslee Udwin, appealed to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to lift the ban in India on 4 March 2015.[50]

On 5 March, Tihar Jail authorities sent a legal notice to the filmmakers. They claimed that the filmmakers had violated the conditions under which they were given permission to film inside the prison. They claimed they had been screened a shorter version of the documentary and also said that they asked the producers to delete the interview with the convict.[51] Udwin denied this saying that she had submitted 16 hours of “raw, unedited footage”, but the review committee told her after watching three hours of it, “We can’t sit through all this, it’s too long.” She said that she then submitted an edited version that was cleared.[50] On 5 March Udwin left India, presumably to avoid legal action.[46]

On 6 March the Bar Council of India sent a show cause notice to the two lawyers, M. L. Sharma and A. P. Singh, who had made misogynistic statements in the documentary.[52]

On 7 March Najma Heptullah, the Minority Affairs Minister, blamed the previous UPA government for allowing the film to be made. She said she fully supports Home Minister Rajnath Singh's stance on the subject.[53]

On 8 March Siddaramaiah, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, criticised the BBC for giving priority to the film.[54] Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, urged the necessity of broadcasting it.[55] An email posted on Quora, which showed a German professor of Leipzig University rejecting an Indian male student's internship because of the "rape problem in India", went viral.[56] The professor later apologised to the student.[57] The German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner tried to contain damage and criticised the professor in an open letter.[57][58] Leipzig University released a statement saying that the internship was rejected due to lack of vacancies and the professor's statements were taken out of context.[59]

A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Delhi High Court to lift the stay order on the broadcast of the documentary. The petitioners claimed the ban violated freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.[60] On 12 March 2015, the Court said the ban cannot be lifted as the appeals of the convicts are under trial in the Supreme Court of India.[61] However, it forwarded the case to the bench of the Chief Justice.[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "India's Daughter". CBC. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Bhatt, Abhinav (5 March 2015). "After India's Ban, Nirbhaya Documentary 'India's Daughter' Aired by BBC". NDTV. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Interview with Delhi gang rapist left 'stain on my soul', says British film maker". The Daily Telegraph. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "India asks YouTube to block banned rape film". Yahoo News. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  5. ^ "India bans TV stations from showing interview with man who raped student". The Guardian. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Dec 16 documentary: Media trials tend to influence judges, says HC". Retrieved 27 March 2015. Delhi Police approached a lower court last week to prevent the broadcast on International Women’s Day.
  7. ^ a b c "YouTube blocks BBC's Nirbhaya documentary video". India Today. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  8. ^ Hills, Suzannah (7 January 2013). "Judge bars Delhi gang rape defendants from chaotic courtroom after 150 people cram into space meant for 30". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  9. ^ Schulz, Matthias; Wagner, Wieland (25 January 2013). "Rape Tragedy in India: Dreams of 'the Fearless One'". Der Spiegel.
  10. ^ a b Rahman, Maseeh (2015-03-04). "India bans TV stations from showing interview with man who raped student". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Delhi gang-rape victim dies in hospital in Singapore". BBC News. 29 December 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  12. ^ Yardley, Jim (29 December 2012). "Leaders' Response Magnifies Outrage in India Rape Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  13. ^ Basu, Indrani (12 March 2013). "Suicide or murder? Nirbhaya main accused found hanging in Tihar". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  14. ^ Barry, Ellen (13 September 2013). "Many Doubt Death Sentences Will Stem India Sexual Attacks". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
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  16. ^ "India's Daughter: Required Clearances Were Taken by Documentary Maker". NDTV. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  17. ^ Baddhan, Raj (3 March 2015). "NDTV 24×7 & BBC to air 'Nirbhaya' film on Sunday". NDTV 24x7. Archived from the original on 7 March 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
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  23. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (5 March 2015). "Delhi gang-rape documentary airs early on BBC following objections". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
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  25. ^ Hegde, Sanjay (10 March 2015). "The ban that actually isn't". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  26. ^ Withnall, Adam (5 March 2015). "India's Daughter: How India tried to suppress the BBC Delhi gang-rape documentary". The Independent. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  27. ^ Nyay Bhushan (October 16, 2015). "Meryl Streep: BBC Rape Documentary Banned by India Deserves Oscar". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  28. ^ Sonia Faleiro (5 Mar 2015). "India's Daughter review – this film does what the politicians should be doing". The Guardian.
  29. ^ "This isn't an anti-feminist backlash – it's a brutal war on women without rules". The Independent. 8 March 2015.
  30. ^ a b "An Anti-Rape Activist Is Disturbed By 'India's Daughter'". NPR. 10 March 2015.
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  33. ^ Varandani, Suman (8 March 2015). "BBC Gang-Rape Documentary: Meryl Streep To Attend US Premiere Of 'India's Daughter' In New York". International Business Times. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  34. ^ Carucci, John (10 March 2015). "Meryl Streep leads the star at US premiere of banned documentary about horrific Indian gang rape". Mail Online. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  35. ^ Varandani, Suman (5 Mar 2015). "India's Daughter: BBC Documentary On Delhi Gang Rape Banned In India, Airs In The UK". International Business Times.
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  59. ^ "Shut out: Males of 'rape-problem' India". The Telegraph (India). 10 March 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  60. ^ "'India's Daughter': Delhi High Court to hear PIL on Thursday to lift ban". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  61. ^ "Ban because case not over". The Times of India. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  62. ^ "High Court refuses to stay ban on BBC documentary India's Daughter". ABP News. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.

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