Rating: ****(4 stars)
Royal Stag Barrell’s short film Devi doesn’t need a recommendation. Not when Kajol is a part of a dazzling ensemble cast. Most films are the director’s medium. Not this one. Devi depends for its power and efficacy on the gallery of resplendent actresses, all locked together in a large room, caught in various positions of self-confessional recline. These women, all rape victims, have nothing much to do, except talk. And we soon know why.
So listen in. Because what these ladies are saying is about what has happened to them, and has a deep-seated impact on issues that go far beyond gender biases. All the voices grow urgent as the brief 11-minute narrative unfolds. The sheer pleasure of watching so many talented actresses of every generation from Neena Kulkarni to Yashaswini Dayama (remember her as Radhika Apte’s nosy neighbour in Phobia?) under the same roof is a goosebump-worthy experience.
There is no male actor in the vast cast. Even the newscaster on television is a woman.
Kajol serves as a kind hostess of the ceremony. She is clearly in control of a situation that threatens to spin out of control at any moment. Writer-director Priyanka Bannerjee puts no pressures on the actors to make their presence felt. They are all locked in a state of sisterly solidarity supporting a common cause.
Still, Neena Kulkarni and Mukta Barve left a deeper impact on me than the rest. One was overly aggressive and hostile, the other was in a burqa. Venom or veil, they both despised what life had done to them.
Devi ends on a shattering note with a little vulnerable visitor barging in for shelter. My heart had broken by then. For all those who think the convicted rapists and murders of the Nirbhaya case should not be hanged, Devi is a timely reminder of all those women whose lives have been destroyed by the lust to subjugate women.