It was a usual day at the office - meetings, deadlines and in between the usual scan through the WhatsApp messages. A friend sent a message with a link with Kajol’s face appearing on it. ‘This short film is going viral, dekhi hai tumne? It gave me shivers’, she wrote.
I had not seen it but I knew it was the talk of the town. On my Facebook (FB) timeline women friends have been discussing it. I decide to see it. It would be a good lunch break watch, I thought. I gathered my colleagues and we all huddled around a laptop - aakhir hai kiss baare main, we all wondered. I was also keen to watch it for Kajol.
The film is set in an overcrowded room filled with women of different ages and backgrounds, who all seem to be living there. Each woman is going about her business until a TV report gets them worried and they start arguing about how many more women they will have to accommodate. We were all hooked by this point.
We were wondering - is this a women’s hostel? Or a jail of some kind? A hospital unit? Or worst case scenario - a Coronavirus quarantine cell! Now don’t laugh, time he kharab chal raha hai...Coronavirus is our minds 24X7…!
Anyways, as the women argue the doorbell rings. The tension in the room increases, the arguments get more intense and that is when we find out that that all the women are victims of rape. A burka-clad weaver (played by Mukta Bharve), a jaanghe dikhane waali modern mem saab (a jab at the short skirt worn by Shruti Hassan’s character), a speech impaired teenager (played by Yashaswini Dayama), a medical student (Shivani Raghuvashi), a corporate employee (Neha Dhupia), Marathi housewives (Neena Kulkarni and Rama Joshi) and puja path karne wali Jyoti (Kajol’s character and the only one given a name).
Hmm, another movie on rape...What can it show in 15 minutes that the other movies have already shown in the past? I wondered. The women in the room continue to argue whether or not to let the new person in. Each woman then shares the details of the brutality she faced.
At this point I get goosebumps. These are dead women, talking in heaven.
Stabbed, beaten to death by a rock, burned alive, mental torutured or mercilessly tossed on the highway like garbage...they list out one cruelty after another. My eyes are moist and a colleague is crying uncontrollably.
When Jyoti comes back to the room with the new person, we are left stunned and pained (and so are the characters in the film). The new person is a young girl child, perhaps the same age as my daughter. I am not able to control my tears now.
Rape cases are now flashing across my eyes. Nirbhaya, the Hyderabad doctor, all the news reports of small girls being raped; all are rushing through my mind.
I came to Delhi when Nirbhaya rape case happened. I protested. We all did. It’s been seven years. Nothing has changed. We are helpless. It is this helplessness that screams through the movie and into our hearts. As Jyoti says, ‘Adjust kar lenge, wahan bhi toh kiya tha, yahan bhi kar lenge.’ There seems to be no relief, not even in death.
Devi leaves you a hole in your heart. It leaves you helpless. It leaves you without any reasons. That rape happens to poor women, to those that wear less clothes, to those that are uneducated, to those that are sexually active. NO. Rape happens to YOU and ME.
In a country where goddesses are worshipped, 90 rapes are reported every day. Of course many more happen. The room is overcrowded and is filling up every day. When will it stop? What will make it stop? I am filled with questions and tears.
The film does not show any rape. There is not even a single man in it. Yet it makes rape so alive and so real. I was now shivering, just as my friend had said. Another message on WhatsApp. Another friend has shared the link. My heart is heavy.
And for Devi, Love Matters too has four heavy hearts.
See the short film below: