'Ajji' Review: A ghoulish yet a pragmatic watch

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

Rimli Bhattacharya

Almost 109 children have been sexually abused in India in 2018

Source ‘NCRB’

Over 600 child rape cases have been filed till May this year in Kerala

Source ‘The Times of India’

I was an innocent fifteen year teen when I was exposed to a man’s privates, my math teacher. And now this is a no fairy tale but a spine chilling story of a ten year old brutally raped and left to die. Released on 24 November 2017 and winner of several awards and also runner up to many, the dark and blood soaked movie, Ajji (meaning grandmother) isn’t an easy watch. Directed by Devashish Makhija the storyline is simple. A poor ten year old child Manda (played by Sharvani Suryavanshi) is the victim of a gruesome rape by a regular sex offender having a strong political background.

That night seemed darker compared to every other nights. May be Amavasya, who knows? We get an uncanny feeling as we see Manda’s Ajji (played by Sushama Deshpande) and Leela (played by Sadiya Siddiqui) an alluring prostitute searching for Manda. Having combed the entire slum they now look for Manda around slum’s exposed sewage system. Ajji is a poor tailor and Leela is one of her very precious and regular client. Apparently the child was on an errand to Leela’s place to handover her the newly altered dress. The child has been missing since then.

Like most of the rape cases they discover the raped and senseless tiny body in the gutter. Ajji quickly lifts Manda but doesn’t cry or make a scene. Instead she remain poisedas if she knows who has done this to her granddaughter. She knows this isn’t the first time and this won’t be last either, much like a goat butchered till its last flesh is removed from the skeleton. The rapist stays very much near, we can feel him, he can be exposed but societal norms stops right here for Ajji and her family compelling her to plan a devious strategy to steer clear of at least one criminal out of the way. Much like room cleaning, where we clear the unused clutter, sometimes we burn it even.

The police appears the next day and threatens the family not to lodge an FIR against the powerful criminal. Instead they victim shame by making a disgusting remark to show them the child’s lacerated private parts for them to confirm if it is a rape.

The girl bleeds and it’s the Ajji who gets some paste from the local Bedouin woman to apply on her wounded granddaughter. Neither the family is economically stable nor they have the right to buy medicines lest it angst the pervert. 

Makhija’s movie is gritty and dark; it’s not for the chicken hearted but exposes how a revenge is planned without anyone having a slightest hint of the road Ajji is treading. It is ghoulish, depressing tale of crime and justice with the common man, in this case a fragile woman with multiple ailments taking the law in her hands is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. This film deviates from the other movies made on the same subject, as this one is crude, has a conclusion which is ghastly and controversial but brilliantly gratifying.

In our country where ‘me too’ is a campaign against all the sexual offences including me where both me and my father did a witch hunt to nab that teacher of mine but were unsuccessful. My father died with this sorrow in his heart that his daughter could not get a justice. Apparently my perpetrator had a strong BJP background which made him indulge in such sexual offenses but never punished. I see Manda in me and can also feel how the entire household is shaken up by this horrendous crime. Ajji who takes care of Manda has her heart being shredded to pieces when the little girl innocently asks her if she is a grown up woman now as she bleeds and also if it occurs with all the girls of her age.

Makhija’s film makes us question on why are we living in such a dubious society? The mantel is in the hands of the politicians and what are we then? The destitute should not voice the injustice. No one believes them and this is where Makhija and Deshpande are lauded for giving the film a twist which no one has ever thought of.  Fragile but witty this small time tailor Ajji takes matter in her own hands and vouch to give a lifetime punishment to the pervert. She follows him every night. She watches him masturbate. She watches him fuck a mannequin in a drunken state. She sees him unzipping his pants and roaming/searching for another prey. She quietly observes her son losing his livelihood. She watches everything and gradually emergesa ticking bomb waiting for her time to explode. She befriends a butcher and learns from him the art of butchering. We slightly get a feel on what she is up to when we see the butcher showing her how to chop off the balls.

While in other motion pictures we see the hero or the victim gearing up for a revenge with loud background music and gravity defying stunts, here in this case Makhija portrays in a graphic detail how the vengeance is carried out in a very simple way. No music, no words spoken, no stunts yet justice is served. Sushama Deshpande a veteran theatre artist deserves a standing ovation for her brilliant acting.

Sincere thanks to director of photography Jishnu Bahattacharjee, music by Mangesh Dhakde and of course Makhija for making this 104 minute picture a repulsive yet appealing watch. A saga of revenge, this stripped movie is a small time watch yet this is a pragmatic one that none will forget in his or her lifetime.

About Author 

Rimli Bhattacharya is a first class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering with a MBA in supply chain management. She has contributed to two anthologies, A Book of light and Muffled Moans and has written two solo books, The crosshairs of life and That day it rained and other stories. Her other works have appeared in twenty nine literary magazines & E – Zines. She is also an Indian Classical dancer. Views expressed are personal.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated 

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