Did you know that “Each day close to 22 rapes are reported in India?”
Despite the shocking statistics, the conviction rate in rape cases in India, unfortunately, remains as low as 32 percent. Besides other haunting details, these figures form the premise of Kajol, Neha Dhupia and Shruti Hasan’s debut short film Devi.
Devi is a film about nine women, co-existing in a single room reeking of pain, struggles, and trauma. As the film opens, the setting confuses you a bit especially because there appears nothing common among the inhabitants in the room. While the suit-clad Neha Dhupia appears all business-like and well-educated, Rama Joshi, Neena Kulkarni, and Sandhya Mhatre play uneducated women from Maharashtra in the film. However, it soon becomes clear that there is, in fact, a common thread: the insurmountable pain that connects them all. All of these women are rape victims looking for some “peace” and a “system” cramped in the ever-decreasing space of a grim room.
Despite all the pain that they have been through, the ordeals are not over for these women as they continue to fight for their space in the room as new entrants keep coming in every now and then. They are informed about the incoming roommates through an unreliable TV that keeps losing the signal but blares incomplete, disturbing news of rape and sexual violence in India.
Besides the nine inhabitants, there is pain, boredom, trauma, and struggles to loom in the room leaving hardly any space for anyone else. This is why as soon as they get the news of a new member coming in, there is resistance from the women.
“Ye andar bahar walon ka bantwara kaise karen? (How do we decide who stays and who leaves?)” Arzu (Played by Mukta Barve) raises a question. The women decide to make a decision based on who has had it worse and this is when the horrors of rape in India hit you in the gut.
There is a thing about sexual violence: it doesn't discriminate between tongues, age, education, religion, or appearances and the thought is well-encapsulated in the film. Right from the all-modern Shruti Hasan to the dumb and deaf Yashaswini Dayama, everyone is stuck in the same room. There are those who were targeted by their own and then there are those who found themselves in the wrong places at the wrong time. From atheists to believers everyone continues to suffer as a compelling remark is made: “There is no God here!”
Writer and director, Priyanka Banerjee has done pretty well for her debut project as she explores everything from marital rape to the violent fates that victims face. She deserves credit for the dignity with which she has handled the characters in her film. More than a remarkable film, Devi is a reality check that stirs in you a lot of uncomfortable emotions as it concludes on a rather shocking and really jarring note.
The ending slates of the film aptly raise that despite the ever-increasing rape cases in India and the ensuing horrors “Indian courts have a backlog of more than 100,000 pending rape cases.” And the biggest irony of it all? “Crime rates against women are higher in a nation where nearly 80% of the population worships goddesses.”
Watch the film here:
Featured Image: YouTube
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