Calling Gajendra Ahire a workaholic would be an understatement. Over the last 14 years or so, he has made 42 films which he has directed and written--dialogue as well as lyrics. His Marathi films have gone to various festivals and won State, National and International awards. He has acted, done theatre, written and directed TV serials and his filmography is long and varied.
His latest film The Silence releases this week. Based on a true story, it has a topical subject, considering how violence against women and child abuse are burning issues right now. Interestingly, Nagraj Manjule, director of Fandry and the superhit Sairat plays the antagonist in The Silence, a man so evil, he makes your hair stand on end.
A young woman (Vedashree Mahajan) witnesses a crime in the local train, and is reminded of the horrors of her own past.
Twelve-year-old Chini (Mugdha Chaphekar) lives with her widowed father (Raghubir Yadav) in a village, where he sells cotton candy. He is an affectionate man, but also a drunkard. Her older sister Manda (Kadambari Kadam) works in Mumbai as a junior artiste. When she is first seen, she is fighting the cast supplier who has made indecent advances towards her.
When Chini starts her period, her father calls his brother-in-law (Manjule) to take her to Mumbai because he cannot cope. Mama comes bearing gifts and dripping charm to fetch her. But back home, he is abusive and violent towards his childless wife (Anjali Patil), and pounces on any woman who works in his grain godown.
The aunt, Maami, is delighted to have Chini with her, but the idyll is shattered when the child is raped by her uncle, and then taken back home. Manda tries to get her uncle punished but it’s a lost battle, since the aunt does not testify against her husband.
The film tells of Chini’s continuing trauma even when she is grown up, she has nightmares and wets her bed. Manda is sympathetic and patient towards her sister. The train incident triggers a change in Chini.
It is not quite clear why the uncle spares Manda or why she is not around when Chini visits Mumbai, but what the film does capture is the suffering of the wife, Chini’s mental state and Manda’s fiery temperament. The plot is over familiar, since rape and its aftermath has been dealt with in many films in the past. The true story aspect of it is a hook, though the cards before the end credits that tell of what happened to the characters after the point the film ends is interesting and should ideally have been part of the film.
It is also not clear why Raghubir Yadav speaks Hindi when everybody else replies in Marathi; the actor could have surely learnt a few lines in Marathi.
There is no additional subplot or layer about the way a Hindi speaking man is treated in a village in Maharashtra.
Still, what it says about breaking of the silence and speaking against violence and atrocity against women remains valid.