Movies

‘Ajji’ review: The film fails to rise above the claptrap

A still from the movie 'Ajji'

A still from the movie 'Ajji'   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Why does a film about rape always have to be about vigilante justice?

Rape is heinous and that of a child is most monstrous. So when a young, intelligent, independent filmmaker chooses to dwell on the subject for his sophomore outing one expects complexity, sensitivity and nuance to come through. Devashish Makhija begins well but cops it in the middle by deliberately opting for style over substance, all in the name of some seeming subversion. He goes on to offer a convenient resolution to boot, one that adds little to the debate but plays unquestioningly on doling out instant, brute justice.

Ajji
  • Director: Devashish Makhija
  • Cast: Sushma Deshpande, Sadiya Siddiqui, Sharvani Suryavanshi, Sudhir Pandey, Smita Tambe, Abhishek Banerjee
  • Storyline: A grandmother goes about avenging the rape of her 10-year-old granddaughter
  • Run time: 115 minutes

The film starts off horrifyingly, laying bare the tenuous life of the girl Manda (Sharvani Suryavanshi) who lives on the margins of the society, in a poor slum. The brutal sexual violence is just the start of endless humiliation, one that she can’t comprehend herself fully. Makhija is vividly clinical in showing the immediate aftermath of rape — the heartless questioning and investigation by the compromised cop, the sense of entitlement of the politically influential perpetrator and the family continuing with life despite the cruel jolt. The mother (Smita Tambe) has to sell poha-sheera, grandmother (Sushma Deshpande) has to stitch blouses even as the grievously hurt Manda lies around waiting for the doctor and some healing. It’s the seeming normalcy and nonchalance that gets particularly heartbreaking, especially when Manda questions her grandmother on whether what has happened to her, is an indication that she has finally grown up to be a woman.

A still from the movie 'Ajji'

A still from the movie 'Ajji'   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 

Soon enough Makhija leaves the realism of poverty and deprivation behind and gets graphic in laying bare the brutality — of both the criminal and the gory revenge that gets heaped on him. The granny’s butcher friend, her sessions with his knife, the race to retribution revels in the Korean horror tradition as well as the desi veebhatsa rasa (disgust). It’s here that the film also gets problematic, veering on the exploitative, being manipulative than empathetic. There’s something deliberately provocative in wallowing in the stylised perversity of the villain, the mannequin scene turns out particularly offensive, as does protracted examination of the girl’s wounds by the cop, when they both have been designed to disturb.

Scratch the surface and you realise the film is hardly able to rise above the claptrap. Be it the inspector or the rapist and his gang — we have seen them all.

The only thing new here then is turning an arthritic grandmom into the avenging angel. Ajji is no more than Mom and Maatr at their most excessive; it just locates the same rape narrative at the other end of the social spectrum.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 6:48:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/ajji-review-the-film-fails-to-rise-above-the-claptrap/article20792984.ece

Next Story