The Silence : An unexaggerated Women Centric Drama driven by Powerful Performances
It is quite ironical that the film ” The Silence ” echoes the plight of many women in India louder than expected even with the sparse dialogue and no hair-raising preachy drama. Even in the prologue scene of the film that describes Mumbai as the safest city, our titular character — Chini (played by Mugdha Chaphekar) — witnesses a woman being harassed in a running local train. The moment she shrieks in horror of the sight, the sound is cut by the more intense and louder horn of the other passing local train. It is an unsettling scene, to say the least, a telling portrayal of how the noise in society and fear of being shamed subdue the screeching voices of harassed women.
The Silence is not a path-breaking film but what makes it peculiar is the subtle way the pain and rage coalesce in the thick air of dominance by patriarchal conscience which makes us realize how safety and equality for women is still a far cry in India.
Chini’s encounter in the local train is reminiscent of the scar she carries from her childhood and which suddenly dwindles her confidence and rips open her old wound. Young Chini (played by Vedashree Mahajan) is raised by her widowed father (Raghubir Yadav) who loves his daughters as much as he loves alcohol if not more. He sells cotton candy in the neighboring village to sustain the family. When Chini hits puberty, her dad seeks the help of his misogynist brother-in-law, played by Nagraj Manjule. He is a cynic with a thick skin of arrogance bolstered with the unpredictability of his wrath that could be triggered by just the slightest blow to his male ego.
His wife, played by Anjali Patil, takes charge of educating Chini about puberty and periods. She is the soft target of her husband’s madness in the house, and could not possibly fathom the sneaking danger of her lecherous husband who could stoop to inconceivable depths stroked by his incessant lust. Chini’s innocence is shaken and her world crumbles down like a house of cards. She locks herself in a claustrophobic cage that only grows stronger until her elder sister –Mandakini (played by Kadambari Kadam) — returns from Mumbai and notices the frightening tremble in her eyes.
The character of Mandakini, an aspiring actress who publicly shames the casting director for a sexual favor in return for a role, feels like a diffident stroke of a brush landing wrongly on the canvas of “The Silence.” The subtlety is punctured by the loud characterization that seems like a flabby stomach. But what keeps you engaged in this seemingly predictable but efficient drama is the earnest & spine-chilling performance of Vedashree Mahajan, Raghubir Yadav’s turn as a helpless father cocooned in alcohol addiction, Anjali Patil’s cold demeanor as a sufferer who stays staunch to the character and Nagraj Manjule’s cynical turn that could give nightmare to victims.
Renowned Marathi director/screenwriter/lyricist Gajendra Vitthal Ahire unfolds The Silence in a nonlinear narrative that constantly flips between Chini’s childhood journey leading to the horrific molestation and her reclamation to life and trust in people. Though the nonlinear narrative lends a mysterious air to the drama, it doesn’t necessarily evoke the emotional resonance that it tries to achieve. Flocked by the three female protagonists, Ahire imbibes the film with the rightful shaky doubt of the women’s fate while possibly giving a terrible choice for their redemption. But since it is based on a true story, he cannot entirely be blamed for it. Though, it would definitely spark a debate whether violence is the only rebuttal to the neverending abuse and harassment women face in Indian patriarchy.