Devi, a short film directed by Priyanka Banerjee is simply put a film that will make you enraged and helpless at the same time. The cast of nine popular actresses like Kajol, Neha Dhupia, and Shruti Hassan will have you questioning everything.
Set in a single room, occupied by women - all of whom are sexual violence victims - for 13 minutes has the issue pinned down to the dot.
Jyoti, played by Kajol is the ideal housewife and is seen doing a morning pooja, Neha Dhupia is an independent working woman, Shruti Hassan plays a modern millennial woman - seen with a bottle of alcohol, Yashaswini Dayama is a deaf and mute teenager from a socially underprivileged background, Neena Kulkarni referred to as Maushi plays an uneducated older woman along with two other women her age. Mukta Barve as Arzoo plays a Muslim woman and Shivani Raghuvanshi plays a student studying to be a doctor.
The diverse cast with various backgrounds puts the whole film together.
The film's opening scene sees the deaf and mute teenager watching a news reporter on Television, speaking about why certain rape convicts are being supported by political leaders? While some of the women are watching TV or are too preoccupied doing their own chores, the doorbell rings, creating a stir among the ladies. They start speculating about who the new guest may be and where the new entrant will fit, owing to the fact that the room is already seeming too small for so many ladies.
As the story unravels further, a heart-wrenching fact comes to the forefront. The women in the room are all rape victims, and shockingly, they are all dead. The room showcases the kind of grim afterlife they are forced to live in - the fear that still remains and the trauma that still haunts them.
The small room - already occupied by women who almost can't stand each other needs to welcome a new guest. The decision of whether to let her in or not is the ideal way to show how women's trauma is often compared to something worse in order to diminish the actual pain it brings.
While some suggest that age should be a factor, others suggest the relationship with the rapist should be a criterion. "How are we related to each other," Neha Dhupia asks Shruti Haasan in retaliation. The subsequent conversations also bring out how these women were killed mercilessly; either strangled, raped, hit or set ablaze. Moreover, the ages of the rapists are also revealed by the victims - 55, 42, 50 and so on.
Neha Dhupia states that she wasn't murdered, but that the trauma led her to kill herself to which Maushi pushes that at least she got to cry over what happened - subsequently suggesting that she should leave because her incident was the least painful. Neha aptly responds with "Shut the fuck up maushi" for diminishing the pain she had to go through.
The conversation then moves back to the new visitor - Jyoti reminds the women about how scared they were when they were on the other side of the door. Soon after, Jyoti walks in with the victim, a young girl - perhaps aged 5-10. The child in the most innocent way is being herself, twirling her dress, shying away and eventually running up to Maushi when asked to greet everyone.
The horror on the women's faces is the exact horror you feel when the scene unravels - it's most likely to tear you up and make you angry.
Devi does not make for easy viewing. The message isn't loud, and nor are the characters - but they are both strong. The film showcases how crimes against women cut across age, language, social status, religion, education and even class. It also releases at a crucial time, when the perpetrators of the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012 are about to face the death penalty after almost eight years.
A film that portrays how these real women have become just another statistic is a must-watch.