With strong characters and an even stronger storyline, Devi, a short film written and directed by Priyanka Banerjee, lays bare the disturbing levels of crime against women in the country.
Starring renowned actresses Kajol, Neha Dhupia and Shruti Haasan, the 13-minute film unravels the trauma of sexual violence faced by a group of nine women, all belonging to different social backgrounds, who share a single room.
All the major characters from Kajol, who appears to be a God-fearing housewife, to Neha Dhupia, possibly a corporate worker, the burqa-clad Mukta Barve and even a grandmother in Neena Kulkarni, bicker with each other against the backdrop of blaring news channels.
But despite their disagreements, they remain united by the circumstances of their grim past.
The group also includes a glam doll in Shruti Haasan, a deaf and dumb girl played by Yashaswini Dayama and a medical student -- Shivani Raghuvanshi -- preparing notes as if her life depends on it.
WATCH THE SHORT FILM HERE:
The film sheds light on how these victims of sexual violence, despite being so different from each other, ended up sharing the same fate.
The simple yet hard-hitting story involves an argument that breaks out among the inmates over who ought to stay in or leave the room. While some contend 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. Laden with subtexts, their conversations which 'normalise' trauma after heinous incidents of rape can be unsettling.
For those paying close attention, the music, TV reports (talking about the crime rate in India) in the background and the room itself add more layers to the narrative.
Devi does not make for easy viewing. The nuanced storytelling coupled with the vulnerability of the characters raises several questions on women's safety in India. 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 about survivors who have turned into mere statistics, Devi is a must-watch.
The film was released by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films on March 2 and is available for viewing on YouTube.
Director: Priyanka Banerjee
Cast: Kajol, Shruti Haasan, Neha Dhupia, Neena Kulkarni, Mukta Barve, Yashaswini Dayama, Sandhya Mhatre, Rama Joshi, Shivani Raghuvanshi