[Review] ‘Ajji’ Is The Most Difficult Film To Watch This Year At MAMI
Ajji, directed by Devashish Makhija has the runtime of a little under 2 hours but it barely feels like 30 minutes. It’s difficult to explain why.
Ajji has a simple linear plot that isn’t too hard to predict. However, the linearity has been cut open to drain it of monotony and cliches. Director Devashish Makhija spends considerable amount of time looking at the occurrences between two specific events. Everyday conversations make way to the narrative as a gateway to the lives of the subjects.
A 10-year-old girl has been raped by the son of a politician. The camera lingers around till after the policeman has done his job of intimidating the girl’s family. How things get back to normal amidst the most abnormal situation speaks a truth we no longer affiliate ourselves with.
Nobody wants to lift the cloth and look at the blood gushing out of the country. So we do what we’ve always done, we move on.
The film is about the impoverished living in one of the biggest cities in the world. The real urban poor in our context.
Ajji, the grandmother, stays even as other characters come and go at the command of the script. Ajji, on the surface, is reminiscent of the elderly figure every Indian family boasts of. She has a different equation with each person of the family and as Ajji evolves and changes through the course of the film, so does her equation with her family members.
Manda, her granddaughter, asks in a particularly heartbreaking scene if this is how every girl reaches puberty. It breaks the heart you had so willingly prepared to watch the film and shatters it into a thousand pieces.
The segregations of dark cinema, real cinema doesn’t apply to a film like this. Ajji is as much a work of fiction as it is the documentation of the lives of millions of Indians whose lives are too unattractive for the Hindi film industry to make a film on.
The poor and the underprivileged have been walked over by wealthy influential people for decades. And it’s not like things are looking to get better anytime soon. That’s the point Ajji is making, that things aren’t changing and we can’t look away anymore.
There’s only so far we can go banking on the privilege passed on by previous generations.
A little preachy on a subject that requires everyone to preach against, Ajji carefully weaves a fictional cobweb where redemption is a possibility.
The film makes its viewers uncomfortable and it more than justifies the discomfort. The Indian cinegoers, with all their disregard and ignorance for cinema, sat with baited breath during the seemingly light-hearted scenes in a film that’s overall grim.
As Ajji completes the circle of its events, the audience has been offered something they weren’t ready to consume. Free will goes out the window the moment privilege starts motivating actions.
Ajji, with all its discomfort for an audience bred on fluff, makes a point for itself and stands its ground. Every bit of credit for this goes to director Devashish Makhija who doesn’t let the attention deviate from the screen. It’s not an easy film to watch but it’s an even difficult film to ignore.
The only funny thing about Ajji is the reaction of the Indian Censor Board once they see it.
For all its authenticity and commitment to the story, Ajji deserves a strong 3.5/5.
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