Staying home doesn't always mean staying safe. Cases of domestic violence have been on a rise world over as couples spend maximum time housed together during the lockdown. In India, after the lockdown was imposed on March 25, National Commission For Women received 587 domestic violence complaints between March 23-April 16, as per a report in The Wire. That's a huge rise from 396 complaints registered between February 27- March 22. This appalling numbers prompted Nandita Das to come up with a short film titled Listen To Her which released today on Youtube. What's extremely poignant about this film is it's not just about physical violence but unfairness with which women are treated. Sometimes emotional abuse is more dangerous than visible wounds and that's where this short film scores. Nandita Das Terms Shahid Kapoor-Kiara Advani’s Kabir Singh’s Success as a ‘Brutal Celebration of Misogyny’
It's just another hectic work from home day in a household during the lockdown. The wife played by Nandita Das herself, is busy instructing her team on a video call, while her son played by Das' child Vihaan, is playing on his own. Her husband is holed up in the bedroom, busy with work. She juggles between caring for her son, doing her own work, cooking lunch, making coffee for her husband... all that in the middle of a video call. That's when she gets a call from a stranger who needs someone to talk about the abuse she is facing at the hands of her husband. The screams, the shrieks and the wounded voice give out the message that whether or not coronavirus claims us, we humans are enough to take more lives.
Nandita Das in an interview with Mumbai Mirror had said that she is making the short film to unmask the irony of 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' campaign. She does a superb job at it. You might see it as a film on domestic abuse where a wife is getting beaten up by her husband and is crying for help. But it also exposes the hypocrisy of those men who don't feel the need to help their wives at home during the lockdown. Everyone is working from home but for women it's doubly hard. Getting that point across has been a brilliant stroke. Many might miss it because normalising wrong-doings is part of our system like the belief that getting a wayward man married to a 'good girl' will change him. Who cares about what the 'good girl' wants. It's still a reality!
Watch the short film here...
Given the limitations of shooting indoors in your own house, Listen To Her has been perfectly shot. The camera was operated by her cook while her staff helped her over the zoom call. There are just two members in the cast as seen in the video but it is ably supported by voices of Ali Fazal (The husband), Amruta Subhash and Sandesh Kulkarni (on phone) and Swanand Kirkire (From the Police Station). Das' performance makes it believable and so damn relatable. Her son gets the mannerisms of a child playing on his own while his parents are busy with work at home on point. He really annoys you at times with his incessant questions and interruptions which is what the point is. Cinema, a Medium to Fight Divisive Forces: Nandita Das
But what I felt slightly strange is he never really bothers his father. Shouldn't he be equally annoying for his father? Das used natural light for the shoot and so, at times, the changing intensity of the light disturbs you a bit. But given the limitations, it still worked out well.
-Brilliantly executed premise
- The light
Final verdict: Nandita Das' attempt to expose the reality of Stay Home Stay Safe for women belonging to different strata of life is a success. It's quite effective and makes you think what lockdown means for certain people who don't have the privilege to be safe.