Solidarity in assault through Priyanka Banerjee’s Devi

TW: This story contains mention of rape and assault.

Priyanka Banerjee’s Devi is a masterpiece! In just 13 minutes (the runtime) Devi captures so much, it’s beyond many of us. That she has a wonderful cast – Kajol, Shruti Haasan, Neha Dhupia, Neena Kulkarni, Mukta Bharva, Sandhya Mhatre, Rama Joshi, Shivani Raghuvanshi, and Yashashwini Dayama among others, is just an added benefit to her writing.

*spoiler alert*

Devi is a story of sisterhood, of companionship, but what binds these women together is horror. All these women, from varied age groups, social and economic background are victims of assault. We often see this around us. Women bond over the fact that they have been groped (insert any form of assault) but is that something you ‘bond’ on? Of course not! Banerjee uses this common issue, that shouldn’t be so common in the first place, and tells the story of these very women who stay together in afterlife. One fine day, the bell rings and the women are discussing whether or not to take in the new entrant. There’s discussion and debate, someone says there’s no place, someone argues how many women, after all, can they allow in their ‘home’? Kajol’s Jyoti then tells them that this solidarity in inconvenience is better than living among demons. Have we, as humans, stooped so low that our women don’t look for a ‘good’ life but instead search for whatever available option as long as it’s not assault?

Devi’s biggest strength is the pauses it takes (we haven’t included many pictures). Watch out for the silences, the stares. Banerjee never focuses on the aftermath of assault (internally). There’s a mention of the horror, the pain, but her film talks about the state of women once they’re assaulted – they lead forgotten lives. They may be from anywhere, anything could’ve happened to them, but the truth is, in our country, women still don’t matter, no matter what you’ve achieved. As long as you’re a woman, you will be wrong. Neha Dhupia is dressed in formals, Kajol in a saree, Shruti Hassan in a dress – were they asking for it?

Devi may come across as a question mark if you don’t have the patience to wait and watch the climax. The person who has rang the bell is a young girl. We never see this girl’s face. Banerjee reminds us through this girl that this young child could be anyone, anyones daughters. Today parents are just thankful that it’s not their daughter. But at the end of the day, it’s someone’s daughter. The truth is, that it shouldn’t be!

Today, as India fights for the lives of two of their daughters, among others, may Priyanka Banerjee’s Devi sit here as a constant reminder that our country is not safe for women, our country is not a democracy, and at the hands of this government, our country is not safe for anyone, except an upper caste Hindi man.

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In two days – yesterday and today – two very brutal rape cases have come to light, as many more go unnoticed. In one of these cases, which involves a very young girl, the police of Uttar Pradesh is as much at wrong as are the perpetrators. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered the UP Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, to take strict action. Had it been a better, more organised, non-fascist government at the Centre, Yogi Adityanath would have been resigning from his post. But sadly that’s not the case. The Bhartiya Janta Party has no plans on running our country as a democracy and in the hands of this party, we are going towards an autocracy, that we ourselves have elected to power. We’ve been hearing of incidents of rape over and over again. Nirbhaya taught our government nothing. It’s been eight years and young girls are still afraid to step out. They stay home, don’t venture out once it’s dark not because they don’t want to, but because they are told, again and again, by society, that they can’t. Not just society, their inner fears also do not allow them to go out. We haven’t taught our sons anything. We keep our girls at home, not restricting movement for our boys. Tell them to not step out so that women can! Sounds wrong? Flip the coin and it will be many more times wrong when you tell young girls to stay home, or else they might be raped. We are a country, a culture that is soon going to welcome the Devi in our lives. We do this every year. But for what? To ask her to give our men the strength to rape India’s daughters, murder them? While we are not questioning anyone’s beliefs, it’s a shame that we pray to a woman god for power, strength, money, prosperity, wisdom and so many more things, and yet this is how we treat our women. And who is at fault? Society or the government? Both. But especially the government. Because rape is political, and in these two cases, also points out to one of India’s biggest problems – casteism. *continued in comments* #BBTurns4 #Hathras #BabriDemolitionCase

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