Justice: A Big Deal
25 May 2022
“Please do not stay quiet anymore,” the opening quote tells us, announcing the film as a wake-up call to those suffering from child abuse and to those inflicting it. A young boy, Jeevan, writes in his diary, looking out the window despondently. Shot and performed by only one person, the selfie approach is economical but the overbearing angle can become tiring, and the brief breaks of slightly wider shots are very welcome. The harpsichord score layered over the silent images is very harsh, its relentless tones of stabbing notes becoming grating quickly. In some ways this matches the anxious and unpredictable mood of Jeevan throughout, but without any other audio to complement it, it can become too domineering.
There are two entries in his diary. The first is most intriguing, suggesting Jeevan has been falsely accused of harassing girls but has been saved from such accusations by his father. This establishes his father as a powerful man in their community, but it also introduces a strange contradiction. The opening quote, and overall theme, suggests victims of harassment and abuse should speak up and be taken seriously, yet our protagonist and victim also seems to be placed in a position of an abuser responsible for silencing other victims. This note is then dropped, as his second entry takes precedent. His girlfriend Shweta has comforted him through this, along with helping him confront abuse from his father by making a video describing how he has suffered.
The video within the film provides a break from the silent dialogue and washed-out colours, instead using a more naturalistic approach. The rest of the film is settled on a palette of muted and murky browns, whereas here there are no imposed filters. This does also mean the dialogue is harder to hear over the intrusive wind. Given the technical restraints of the film this is understandable, and the workaround to establish the low quality of the video as part of the narrative is smart.
By publishing Jeevan’s testimony of abuse, Shweta becomes the target of an attack orchestrated by Ashok, his father. In response, Jeevan confronts his father, yet remains feeling vulnerable. Finding it hard to shake that sense of powerlessness in the face of a patriarchal figure, Jeevan resorts to violence to try to find justice. The fight itself runs on too long, repeating his seeming defeat and resurgence several times. The selfie perspective again presents a challenge, but the quick movements injecting a feeling of violence and chaos. This is much less neat in wider shots, with his swinging of a hammer towards someone just off-screen showing the seams of the film.
The fight ends in victory for Jeevan, leaving his father alive to be arrested. The line “Nothing is more vulnerable in life than life itself, and right now nothing is more vulnerable than your kneecap,” though, feels like a one-liner borrowed from an action movie, removed from the serious tone of the rest of the piece. The post-script updates provide resolution, with Jeevan and Shweta surviving despite their trauma, and Ashok imprisoned. A happy ending in relative terms, but it gestures towards other victims who are not lucky enough to find justice, acknowledging that many will continue to suffer unless something changes.