Written and Directed by Praveen Morchhale who brings to light yet another story of the injustice suffered by many women in the Indian region of Kashmir. WIDOW OF SILENCE Opens Virtually July 10 thru LA’s Laemmle Cinemas.
Muslim women whose husbands have disappeared and though they have not been officially declared dead the wives are considered half-widows and are basically treated as outcasts. In Widow of Silence, Praveen Morchhale (Walking With The Wind, 2017) tells the story of Aasia (Shilpi Marwaha), a young nurse who over the course of 7 years have tried to get Government officials to grant her a death certificate for her husband. She’s reluctant to do this as she still maintains hope he’s alive. During the 30-year long Kashmir conflict, he was forcefully removed from the family home by the Indian army for interrogation, but he never returned like so many other men.
She cares for her ill mother in law, and her 11-year-old daughter, Inaya (Noorjahan Mohmmad Younus), in a small dilapidated stone house with no electricity. Her dire straits are compounded with the frustration of having her request completely ignored by the corrupt Registrar office.
And when a government can remove individuals from their homes and don’t suffer any repercussions how can there be justice for anyone. But Aasia is undaunted taking long trips to the Registrar via a community taxi ride through the desolate and conflict riddled landscape of Kashmir, with the rare sprinkling of comic relief from a talkative driver who passes the time by being friendly with all his riders.
But Aasia cannot laugh, she’s burdened with the dread that her life is being held hostage by men who control her destiny and dignity by denying her the document that will allow her to re-marry. While at the registrar office, the sleazy Government Officer (Ajay Chourey) explains to Aasia in clear terms that unless she gives in to his sexual requests, and sell her land to his friend and give him 20%, he cannot give her the death certificate. He gives her a day to think about it. Another clear example to amplify the worldwide epidemic of sexual harassment against women.
Aasia’s daughter Inaya is having trouble at school being bullied about being a “half-daughter” and this further breaks Aasia’s heart and concern about her daughter’s future. After talking with a fellow nurse at the government hospital at work, she’s told to stop hoping her husband is alive because the missing never come back home. This stark discussion convinces Aasia what she must do, she will not sell her property, because one day when she does sell, she will need all the proceeds to move away with her daughter. So she goes back and tells the Government Official that she will not sell, and he assures her that she will regret her decision.
With school problems mounting for her daughter and school fees due, Aasia goes to the bank to make a withdrawal. In a dramatic worsening of her situation, the bank informs Aasia that she has been declared dead by the government and the bank account frozen. She knows who is responsible for this and tries to prove her case to local authorities, but no one believes her.
Faced with the devastating ramifications of being declared dead, and how this will affect her daughter’s future, Aasia realizes she only has one option. Shilpi Marwaha gives a heartbreaking natural performance as a devoted mother and caretaker who has been abandoned by her culture and her government. In an emotionally moving scene cuddled in bed with her daughter, she speaks in a whimsical manner about how she doesn’t want her to go through the crisis that she has had to endure since her husband was taken away.
As seen in the following day, Aasia is dressed in a white veil and holding a bouquet of purple flowers as if attending her own funeral. She takes the taxi to a nondescript building which turns out to be a hotel where she will meet the Registrar officer to submit to his bribery of money and flesh. But little does he realize that there is no wrath like a desperate woman considered dead by society.
In a world managed and controlled by men under the strict principles of the Muslim faith, half-widowed women are manipulated and abused by a patriarchal system that is viciously corrupt and leads many women to just give in so that they can survive. Widow of Silence is a dark and multi-layered depiction of just one of many stories of half-widows who are compelled to no longer remain silent about the systemic corruption and abuse of basic human rights of the women, and the men of Kashmir.
- Written and Directed by Praveen Morchhale
- Cast Shilpi Marwaha, Ajay Chourey, Noorjahan Mohmmad Younus, Bilal Ahmad,
- Zaba Banoo, Habibulla
- Produced by Praveen Morchhale
- Director of Photography Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah
- Edited by Anthony Joseph
- Genre Drama
- RT 86 minutes
- Language Urdu with English Subtitles
Reviewed by Simone Cromer Twitter: @theatreofzen