Child abuse gets sensitive treatment in Marathi film ‘The Silence’ (Review)

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Film: “The Silence”; Director: Gajendra Ahire; Cast: Anjali Patil, Nagaraj Manjule, Raghuvir Yadav and Kadambari Kadam; Rating: ****

Some truths are so painful that the pain must transmit itself to the audience if it must be made into cinema. “The Silence” is a very painful film to watch. It strips aside the niceties that would make child rape more palatable to the audience, and puts the audience face-to-face with the innocence of the little girl Chini (Vedashree Mahajan) and the monster Mama (Uncle) who molests her in a godown teeming with possibilities of a staged sexual assault.

The horrific act is not shown. Not because the director — the very prolific Gajendra Ahire — wants to cover up the sordid act to appease family audiences. Nothing of the sort. By blanking out the actual act, the narrative acquires a strength of projection that would have otherwise been denied to this fine but flawed film.

Flaws, this work has in plenty. While the sense of wounded betrayal is felt strongly by little Chini and the audience, we never get a sense of what makes the monster Mama’s world so infallible. Is it just police apathy and insensitivity, of which there is ample illustration in the plot?

After little Chini’s sister Manda (Kadamabari Kadam) discovers the ghastly truth about her baby sister’s violation and once Chini grows up into probing searching adulthood (Mugdha Chaphekar) the narrative begins to get heavy-handed, stilted and melodramatic.

The build-up to the child’s molestation is supremely smooth. Ahire uses background music and the beautiful Maharashtrian countryside sparingly, eloquently. Repeated shots of Raghuvir Yadav cycling down a mountain-kissed pathway tend to prettify the proceedings more than required. Also, the film packs in too many ideas on sexual violation – for the central idea of the little girl’s violation by her own uncle tends to be diluted.

Whatever the blemishes in this brave and often powerful film, the central idea is resoundingly well executed by the two central performances. Filmmaker Nagaraj Manjule instils a slimy diabolism to his part. He is the embodiment of evil, hurling belt blows on his wife, thrashing Raghuvir Yadav.

Manjule’s wife is played by the very accomplished Anjali Patil. Playing the slimeball’s submissive wife who probably wonders when the next blow will come, Patil lets her eyes do most of the talking.

Her interaction with the grownup Chini (Vedashree Mahajan) in prison has visuals of Anjali looking skywards as though to question why we do what we do in life and why some are served only disappointments in life.

That’s what we should be doing. Looking skywards. It’s not every day that we get an actor of Anjali’s creativity regurgitating the truisms of life on the most basic level. Or a film that dares to stick its neck out and face the powerful winds of shame that a rape victim brings on herself and those around.

Not that the film is bereft of all flaws. There are many shortcomings. Raghuvir Yadav insists on speaking in Hindi to everyone in the movie. This seems to have been done to let Raghuvir remain verbally unhampered.

“The Silence” is not a film which you would forget in a hurry. The little girl’s guilty eyes will follow your nights and vitiate your days.

–IANS

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