At a time when the angst among the citizens in the country is palpable after yet another deferring of the hangings of Jyoti Singh’s rapists and murderers, the short film Devi is a reminder why we cannot afford to take a break in this fight against sexual violence, especially rape.

The much-hyped short film is a gripping 13-minute watch which will make you uncomfortable from the word go. The opening scene tells us about yet another sexual assault case which has shaken the nation and a room full of women come into our sight, a housewife, a woman in burkha, a group of old Marathi ladies, a student preparing for her exam, a corporate worker and a rich young girl who is probably an alcoholic.

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Right from the beginning it makes you edgy as you question this unusual sisterhood because it is obvious that most of them cannot stand each other’s presence. As you try to search for an answer you get punched hard in your gut when you realise that the only connection these women have is that they have faced brutal rapes and are presumably dead now. And as the characters go cribbing about their inability to accommodate more women in the small space, they narrate the tales of brutality they have faced, one after the other. They discuss their perpetrator’s identities and uphold the under-acknowledged fact that rape can happen to anyone irrespective of the clothes a woman wishes to wear, her age and social standing and most importantly a husband can rape his wife too.

As you try to search for an answer you get punched hard in your gut when you realise that the only connection these women have is that they have faced brutal rapes and are presumably dead now.

Throughout the short film, we keep hearing these calling bells which is actually an indication that a new member is waiting to enter. The matter of fact way in which the women argue about their inability to accommodate more women in this ‘safe haven’, is a reminder to the viewers that how much we have normalized sexual abuse and even rape in our country. Viewers are pushed to ask themselves what is this world that we are living in where the only shared experience between a group of women is the sexual violence that they have faced?

The matter of fact way in which the women argue about their inability to accommodate more women in this ‘safe haven’, is a reminder to the viewers that how much we have normalized sexual abuse and even rape in our country.

Assuming that all these women are entering this space after they have been raped and murdered or have killed themselves, it is interesting to revisit the name “Devi”. It is a hard-hitting reminder that we continue to be a land that worships women as goddesses in heaven but fails to extend the same respect to women when they are alive and living among us.

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This conversation around the problems of lodging yet another rape survivor is a curious one, it achieves its purpose of making you uncomfortable. Finally, it is Kajol’s character which reminds the rest of the members of their own entries to this place and it helps get a consensus to welcome the next one who has all along been waiting at the door. However, the last scene is the final blow. Priyanka Banerjee’s Devi will break your heart, but you should still watch it.

Devi stars Kajol, Neha Dhupia, Shruti Haasan, Neena Kulkarni, Sandhya Mhatre, Mukta Barve, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Rama Joshi and Yashaswini Dayama.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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