Film: The Silence
Cast: Anjali Patil, Nagraj Manjule, Raghubir Yadav, Mugda Chaphekar, Vedashree Mahajan, Kadambari Kadam, Mihiresh Joshi
Director: Gajendra Ahire
Rating: * * * ½
Based on a true story, Silence, is about three women who experience different forms of sexual exploitation. While travelling on a Mumbai local, Chini (Mugda Chapekar), a small-town migrant to the big city, witnesses a woman being molested. The narrative then cuts away to her pre-menstrual childhood where she is shown living with her helpless widower father while her older sister Manda (Kadambari Kadam) is fighting away the lechers of opportunism, working her way into the film industry as a background dancer.
Maverick Marathi filmmaker Gajendra Ahire designs a non-linear narrative where linguistic barriers (the characters speak in a judicious mix of Hindi and Marathi) are thrown away in an effort to arrive at a universally acceptable form that singes while it soars. The narrative harkens back to the past frequently to connect with the incidents of the present while smartly incorporating some of the stages of recovery from trauma.
The incident on the train triggers a bad memory from Chini’s traumatic childhood and she has to find her way to a closure that might not necessarily make her whole again. The incident being referred to is of rape – by her own maternal uncle who was invested with her caretaking during her first menstruation. The lecherous uncle (Nagraj Manjule) is also responsible for marital rape that he subjects his passive aggressive wife (Anjali Patil) to, and he is also the reason why Manda, the starlet, is subjected to sleazy advances from an opportunistic employer.
Gajendra Ahire treats the shocking incident with subtle guile, allowing for a deepening sense of outrage as the narrative progresses to its destined conclusion. While Chini and her aunt go through the stages of Silence and victimhood to emerge as survivors, Manda manages to keep herself afloat without being singed- thus managing to thrive despite the adverse environment surrounding her work.
The performances, especially Anjali Patil and Nagraj Manjule are simply outstanding. The narrative flow is smooth and inviting, allowing for an involvement that sears a deep swathe through your heart and mind. The film is a powerful and heartfelt document of the kind of exploitation that women are subjected to and the trauma and aftermath they undergo in order to regain a healthy sense of self. It’s a must watch for sure.