Nagraj Manjule getting hate calls after playing a paedophile in the Marathi film The Silence

I wouldn’t say I am surprised, says Nagraj, who is known for directing Sairat.

Filmmaker Nagraj Manjule is playing a paedophile and a wife beater in the Marathi film The Silence. The director, who has acted in his own movie Fandry and was seen in a special appearance in Sairat, is not only shown beating and raping his wife (played by Anjali Patil), but his character also violates a little girl who happens to be his niece.

Now, Nagraj is flooded with hate calls. Says the Sairat director, “Did I expect this kind of a backlash? I wouldn’t say I am surprised. Because ours is a predominantly emotional audience and it reacts not to the performance but to the character played by the actor.”

CHARACTER CALL

Many actors say that they would be loathe to play rapists and serial killers, given the rise in crimes against children and women.

Nagraj says, “That perception of keeping away from morally-reprehensible characters is not to be judged by me. Actors, who say they will stay away from negative characters, are right in their own way, as they are seen as role models. I have a different take on the issue of actors prejudging their characters’ morality. Someone has to do the dirty job in order to bring out the morally-correct viewpoint in a film. If I hadn’t played the evil, sexually-discrepant maama (uncle) in the film, its strong statement on protecting our children and women from violence would have been diluted.”

THE BAD GUY

Nagraj sees the sexual predator in The Silence as no ordinary villain. “He is that evil force, which is lurking in many middle-class homes. So often, we hear of children being violated by trusted relatives. The uncle who rapes the little girl in The Silence could be in any home. We need to be conscious of his presence. One way of doing so is by putting him on screen for all to see.”

Nagraj sees a lot of reformist cinema happening in Marathi. “I suppose, historically, West Bengal and Maharashtra were at the forefront of the reformist movement. Samaaj sudhar is an organic part of Marathi society and cinema. We need to make more films on issues such as sexual violence and paedophilia.”

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