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Bold Film About an Indian Woman's Sexual Awakening Accused of Pardoning Pedophilia

Independent director Shailaja Padindala's short film “Memories of a Machine,” which is available on YouTube, is making waves in India.

In the 10-minute movie, a woman, played by Malayalam actress Kani Kusruti, talks about her first sexual experience — with an adult at her school — when she was only eight. “Memories of a Machine” has received positive reviews from Seattle South Asian Film Festival (SSAFF), Bangalore Queer Film Festival (BQFF) 2016, and other film festivals.

However, a section of Indians think that YouTube should take down the movie because in their opinion it doesn't condemn pedophilia.

“Memories of a Machine” was filmed in one continuous shot, where lead actress Kani narrates on camera her character's experiences of discovering herself as a sexually curious young girl as well as being shamed by a boyfriend when she is older for wanting to be sexually intimate with him.

Of what happened when she was eight, the character says in the film:

I don't know if it was right or wrong. At that point it was sexual exploration for me. I liked the way he touched me and he stopped when I did not want it. I'm not concluding that it's right or even wrong for that matter. I don't think it is wrong. That's all.

Published on YouTube on November 20, 2016, the film has already been viewed more than half a million times in a week.

Although India is the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, in conservative Indian societies sexuality has been considered something to be discussed in muffled voices and discovered behind closed doors. In Indian culture, talking about sex is deemed a taboo, having sex before marriage is unacceptable and educating youngsters about sex is something many adults don't do. But there are a number of people in India who want to change this.

Filmmaker Shailaja Padindala is a graduate of LV Prasad Film and TV Academy. She denied that she supports child abuse or rape as alleged by many reviewers of her movie. In an interview with the Daily Thanthi Next, she described the film:

The movie is a culmination of several personal experiences and stories of women we come across on a daily basis. I’ve attempted to explore the complexity surrounding sex and sexuality and how the society views it. […]

I didn’t want to moralise or demoralise the issue. I wanted the audience to form their own perspective and which is also why I’ve named it Memories of a Machine.

However, some think otherwise. Here is one response shared by the actress Kani Kusruti herself on Facebook made by her friend:

While it’s true that when kids start exploring sex, they are often attracted to adults. This is quite a natural thing and happens to pretty much everyone. But an adult wanting to enter into a sexual act with a kid cannot be regarded as a natural thing. It is clearly an act of aggression. But the movie tries to place both these individuals as equals in the story. Which they certainly aren’t.

The movie also tries to normalize a pedophilic act by saying that the girl child liked it. It also tries to humanize the pedophile by saying how he was ‘gentle’ and took a ‘no’. In a country where women and kids are often subjected to violent crimes, this normalization of an aggressive act becomes even more problematic.

Sourabha Rao commented on the above:

Yes; the movie is a little too soft on the pedophile there, but I guess we shouldn't generalise that “some girls might ‘like it’ by listening to just one girl who might actually have. She was too young to even judge this on any intellectual or societal level; she was just a biological being exploring her body's reaction to something.

Some also took it to the extreme:

And entrepreneur Sam Eapen thought that “diverse view and different perspective on same issue may help one to have a better understanding on a subject”.

Director Shailaja Padindala defended the film as encouraging important conversations about sex and sexuality:

Conversations about these subjects must be encouraged and brought out of closed walls. When an individual is able to speak about it without feeling awkward or uncomfortable, it paves for a better understanding of it and thereby creating a healthy environment. The more you forbid something, more negative will be the repercussions.

She even posted a note on YouTube to explain her position:

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