(2007) I was impressed with Aishwarya’s acting
Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai came in for praise for her role in the British film “Provoked” on the life of an NRI Kiranjit Ahluwalia who set her husband afire 11 years ago after suffering at his hand for a decade.
“I cried seeing the film as I re-lived every moment of it.. I am impressed with Aishwarya’s acting of the role of Kiranjit and I am satisfied with the film,” said 51-year-old Kiranjit, while sharing the platform with Aishwarya Rai, the director of the film Jag Mundhra and actress Nandita Das, at the Court House Kempenski here last night.
Kiranjit was presented with a cheque for 5,000 pounds and promise of a 1 per cent of the box office returns for her and the South Hall Black Sisters who had campaigned her cause.
Kiranjit made legal history 15 years ago when she was acquitted of murdering her husband.
She hoped that the film would save many other women in Asian community from such violence.
Provoked stars former Miss World Aishwarya Rai as Ms Kiranjit Ahluwalia, alongside the British actors Miranda Richardson, who plays a prison cellmate, and Robbie Coltrane, who plays the barrister who helped Kiranjit with her landmark appeal.
Asked what prompted her to take up the role of Kiranjit, Aishwarya Rai said “This was the story needed to be told to larger audience. As Kiranjit Ahluwalia herself said it was extremely emotional journey to re-live her life. This is also the reason why the film is being dubbed in several Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil.”
Jag Mundhra, the director of the film, said “Women from all walks of life, all colour, all races and backgrounds can relate to the story. Some have already come up to me saying they watched their own life. Without doubt this will resonate beyond Asian women to women in general.”
In India special screening of the film was organised for the family of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the response had been wonderful, Mundhra said.
According to Sunanda Murali Manohar, producer of the film, Rani Jethmalanij, leading lawyer and activist, told her after seeing the film that the film had accomplished in two hours what she had been trying to portray for 20 years – marital violence and suffering faced by women.
Kiranjit said “It is important to raise this issue and film is the best way to do it. There is a moral and this is a real story.”
Kiranjit had a privileged upbringing in Punjab. By the time of her arranged marriage to Deepak Ahluwalia, her English-educated husband, in 1979, she had Four A levels and was studying for a law degree.
When he began raping and beating her regularly in their home in West London, she found that she had nowhere to turn. Her own family and her in-laws were unwilling or unable to help.
After ten years she snapped. She placed a blanket soaked in petrol over the bedclothes that covered her husband’s feet as he slept, lit a match and ran into the garden with her three-year-old son. Neighbours heard her husband’s screams and he died of his burns six days later.
Kiranjit was sentenced to life imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court on December 7, 1989. “I lost my faith in British law,” she said. “In 1989 people knew nothing. The English system failed to understand English-Asian culture.”
Three years after the trial, a campaign by the Southall Black Sisters, a charity that was founded to fight discrimination against women, put the case before the Court of Appeal.
Led by Lord Taylor of Gosforth, then the Lord Chief Justice, the court quashed the conviction, ruling that there was evidence suggesting that the accused was suffering a “major depressive disorder” at the time of the killing.
At the re-trial in September 1992 at the Old Bailey, Kiranjit’s plea of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted. The judge sentenced her to three years and four months in prison – the exact time that she had already served.
Her appeal and re-trial are now part of every basic criminal law text.