Does It Matter What Happens Next?

The final scene of Mirch Masala shows the subedar on his knees, screaming in agony from the peppers thrown into his eyes, and then cuts to an image of Sonbai clutching a sickle, her expression of defiance. At first, I was disappointed by the ending because I wanted to know what happened next–does Sonbai kill the subedar? do the soldiers attack the village? does Sonbai get killed for her actions? and so on. But upon further reflection and after reading the Mazmudar article, I realized what will happen isn’t as important as what has already happened–which is Sonbai and the other village women’s uprising. Throughout the film, women remained at the mercy of men like when the mukhi disrespected his wife and forbid his daughter from an education, Sonbai’s husband ignored her pleas not to leave her and the village, Radha’s father controlled her marriage prospects and love life, the subedar attempted to force Sonbai to sleep with him, and the women in the factory relied on Abu Mian to protect them.

After Abu Mian is killed, the village women finally take control by uniting with Sonbai and fighting back against the subedar, a man powerful enough that even the village men fear offending him. They use the tools available to them: the spices and the sickle, which also symbolize their work. Sonbai’s sickle and expression tell the audience that whatever happens next, she won’t go down without a fight. She stands as a representation of the village women, and women like them and her, who are tired of being pushed around and have been forced to defend themselves because others (like the village men) won’t help them or because those who did defend them (like Abu Mian) cannot help them any longer. What matters most is that she and the other women have the ability to defend themselves.

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