Ajji is just like any other granny. She’s frail on the outside, her wobbly knees could give away any time. Yet she never ceases to run that feet-powered, ancient yet trusty sewing machine. What’s wrong if she can help contribute to her family’s meager income? And, what’s not to like if the family has a little girl all of 10? The girl’s mother sells home-cooked eatables on a bicycle and her father works at the factory. The family stays in a dark, dingy slum with a pregnant out-of-work prostitute as a neighbour.
Ajji is tender at heart, just like marshmallows she melts to her grand daughter Manda’s very being of existence. Still, the depths of her love can only be fully fathomed at the end. How far would she go, to save the dignity of her beloved Manda? Because, where there is a little girl all by herself, minding her own business, there is a big, bad wolf, too!
Ajji, the dark thriller directed by Devashish Makhija and co-written by Mirat Trivedi, is an Indian take on a Korean revenge thriller, but minus the action and the gore. It slowly builds up your hunger for a fantastic revenge by our wobbly, old granny, as it generates hatred for the bad guy in the pits of your core, but finally leaves you very satisfied in the climax.
One night Manda does not return home; a search party comprising the duo gets into action – our wobbly Ajji and her faithful companion, the pregnant prostitute. Together they find the little girl dumped in the trash, brutally raped and bleeding. They bring her home, call a cop who then proceeds with a fake investigation, and adds more insults to their collective injury.
Although Manda identifies her attacker as the son of a local politician, the cop refuses to file a report citing the family itself is into illegal/unlicensed activities. They could be jailed instead, he frightens them. So, life goes on as usual at home.
Our little Manda has no clue about what has happened with her, her mother is strangely aloof about the mental repercussions of this lowly crime on her 10-year-old. She is worried about having to cook eatables and then sell them on a cycle all around the area. “Is this my life?”, is her top most concern!
Ajji decides to take up the matter, and we begin to wonder – ‘How?’ On one side, there is utter poverty, helplessness and frail knees, and on the other, there’s political power dynamics at play. But, her single-minded determination takes her from pinning down the bad guy’s hiding den to ultimately pin him down – badly bleeding and bruised, writhing in pain, with no idea about what just happened.
Ajji is never, even for a moment, revealing in her expressions. There’s no inkling of an actor’s angst or pretentious venting out fumes of revenge. Just pure, effortless playing of an inwardly resolute but outwardly frail old woman. “I know what I need to do, and I’ll find my way to accomplish it, come what may.”
A particularly long scene between a female mannequin and the bad guy sets the level of gore and misogyny that exists in our society. Post watching that scene, just as ajji is from behind the bushes, you are scarred for life. Like her, you too sub-consciously start working out a plan to do unto him what he does to helpless little girls and women.
The cinematography is like truth; it’s ugly and you need to take it with a pinch of salt. There is absolutely no effort to hide the truth – the sinister truth about dark, unsafe places and big bad wolves. The hardly there background score only adds to the thrill.
The film’s poster is understandably dark in tone, but if one were to look at the wolf in it, they’d know they are in for a sumptuous meal of revenge!
The 2017 film has deservedly been a part of prestigious film festivals all over the globe, and is now available for paid screening if you’ve missed it. On a budget of INR 3.5 crores, in under 105 minutes, Ajji is one memorable film for lovers of dark cinema.