Film name: Devi
Cast: Kajol Devgan, Neha Dhupia, Neena Kulkarni, Shruti Haasan, Mukta Barve, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Sandhya Mhatre, Rama Joshi and Rashaswini Dayama
Director: Priyanka Banerjee
Set in a single room occupied by women, this short film is an emotional roller coaster that lasts for 13 minutes.
The film's opening scene sees a teenage girl watching a news reporter on Television, speaking about why certain 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, a heart-wrenching fact comes to the forefront. The women in the room are all rape victims, and shockingly, they are all dead. However, the way this fact is slipped into the script by Director Priyanka Banerjee is truly laudable.
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 (the women).
Devi is an attempt to bring to the forefront how the suffering and the trauma for a rape victim does not depend on her age, class, education, religion, or appearance; predominantly being the reason behind why the characters in the movie hail from such varied socio-economic backgrounds. Priyanka Banerjee has built almost every character with care, trying to highlight the things that make each woman unique from the other women in the room.
Actress Kajol pays the role of a stable-headed, sorted woman, who wants everyone to live together in peace. Neha Dhupia plays a fierce independent woman, Shruti an urban girl, while Neena Kulkarni plays a Maharashtrian lady. Neha and Shruti fit in perfectly as alleged brats or snobs, so as perceived by the older Maharashtrian women, one of who is constantly referred to as maushi (Neena Kulkarni). Maushi is a strong character, a probable septuagenarian, who is stubborn, demeans most of the other characters and tries to hold her own.
Amidst the argument regarding where the new entrant in the room will fit reaching a possible conclusion, Kajol decides to bring her in, reminiscing how scared every girl/woman was while entering the room. This scene throws light upon the emotional trauma and mental breakdowns a rape victim faces post the incident. Kajol then opens the door and brings in a new guest; a scene that is most likely to leave you all shocked, trembling with rage and disgust.
The characters have emoted every feeling exceptionally well and a fresh cinematic approach to showing the struggles of a rape victim was definitely a success. However, if one thing could be changed it would be giving Kajol's character a better build-up, considering she is a strong actor.
Devi is like a wake-up call for the nation, but the execution is not forced and neither too loud. The simplicity with which it has been implemented makes it a must-watch.