Provoked, a movie directed by Jag Mundhra, starring Aishwarya Rai, Miranda Richardson and Naveen Andrews is based on the autobiography of Kiranjit Alhuwalia: Circle of Light. She was sentenced to life in prison by the British High Court in 1984. She was convicted of murder of her husband. That should have been the end of the story, but it was only the beginning. In jail, she found her way to freedom.
Indians have been attracted towards foreign countries for many years. They find it more convenient to work there and spend here. Punjab is the centre of these cases of immigration. Punjabis are innocent by nature. Their rustic temperament fails to probe into the difficulties at first sight. They migrate to foreign lands, but the mechanical life of those countries hangs heavy on their conscience some Punjabi marry their daughters only in hope of securing their future –in better conditions. But they fail to understand that the gap between the oriental and occidental culture is unbridgeable. They face four-dimensional problem: the problem of Cultural Identity, Language, belongingness and the memory of their country. They remain alien in the foreign land.
Aishwarya (Kiran) dramatizes the life of such an innocent Punjabi Girl who was nineteen years of age. She was the ninth child in her family. She was the most pampered one. Her eyes were full of dreams. Her parents married her with an unknown boy Naveen Andrews (Deepak), from London. Her life after marriage is Saga of captivity. She finds the ways of her husband totally un-understandable. He is a drunkard, womanizer and a spendthrift. He abuses Kiran sexually and mentally. The movie begins with the burning-bed of Deepak, set on fire by Kiran. She has sprinkled petrol on her sleeping husband and then set his bed on fire. She was arrested and convicted of attempt to murder. Leaving her two sons behind, she goes to jail.
In Jail, for the first time in her life, she feels free. She faces problem of language because she is not able to speak English. But it was her first encounter with the world around. She finds a strange relaxation in being free from the routine life. Here, she tells her woeful story to the Police. The bruises and scars on her body bear evidence to her long life of servitude and suppression. Her husband dies because he is 80% burnt. Kiran’s trial becomes harsher. She is attached by the pangs of conscience. Her mind is torn between what is and what should be. On the one side she is observing the image of woman as taught to her by her culture: the self-sacrificing, loving, duty-conscious, never questioning, but bent upon serving the interests of her family; as a daughter, as a wife, a mother. On the other hand she has burnt the cosset woven by her husband. She breaks the cage of captivity and faces the wide world. They may call it crime but Kiran knew it was not.
Deepak had made her life hell on this earth. She could not recollect one moment of togetherness or happiness. She was dying by inches. Every time he would beat her, use her body anytime to satisfy his lust, she would refuse but everything would fall flat on him. Sometimes, he would force her to surrender before him sexually. There was not a single moment of happiness in their life. He was intolerant of her beauty. During her trail, she kept silence because she thought that it was her time for repentance as she has committed a serious crime. But when she looks at the behavior of her mother-in-law in the court, she is shaken. She accuses Kiran of her son’s murder. Kiran fails to understand this discrepancy between the real and present situations. She is in deep agony. Whenever she calls at her home, her mother-in-law does not allow her to talk to her sons as she wants to keep their grandsons away from her evil influence.
While Kiran was fighting the psychological was inside her. She met Radha (Nandita) who is a member of women activist group. It is her presence beside herself which awakens the new woman in Kiran. She decides to fight for her freedom, to free herself from the clutches of callous customs. She starts learning English from her British friend in the jail. For the first time in life, she was enjoying herself in the company of friends, sharing with them, and learning from their experience. Now, Radha takes the initiatives, she makes Kiran speak out her heart openly. She starts a campaign against Domestic Violence. Pamphlets and posters are distributed meetings are held in favor of Kiran and suggestions are flooding in now. Kiran becomes known to all. Radha reads the words of Kiran. She makes women of London acquainted with the problem and tortures of Kiran. She reads: “My culture is like my blood. It flows through all veins of my body. In our culture, the woman has a status of God. To preserve this false status Izzatt, I suffered a long life of ten years of beatings oppression and……” When she realizes the difference between the ideal and the real, she came to understand the way of the world. “ ……Woman is a toy, a plaything, broken and stuck up at will. I broke the jail of my husband and in jail. I found the freedom.”
This heart-rending speech of Kiran breaks the slumber of the Jury. The trail begins once again. This times, Kiran appears before the people in a new look. She looks no longer alien. She is very much like a woman of London, assertive, bold and feminist. Her courage makes the tables turned on the opposition. The lawyer of Kiran pleads that in her case it was an act of provocation. It is a state of mind when the convict loose control over his or her mind and reacts violently. The silent suffering of Kiran and her husband’s callous nature has provoked her to commit this crime. He named her mental condition: Battered woman’s syndrome: when a woman can no longer bear the torture & revolts. This was accepted by the Judge and Kiran was set free. Thousands of women were waiting for her outside the court. Kiran became a symbol of freedom for them. In her own words, she declares: “There is nothing brave in suffering silently. There is no affection or value in love that is abused. Being a woman it is our duty to treat woman with respect and love and teach our new generation the same way.” She was hailed by cries of joy and wife of Tony Blair honored Kiranjit for her success.