Sairat Director Plays Child Rapist In New Marathi Film

“Someone Has Got To Do The Dirty Job…”

The  very accomplished Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule has just  made his full-fledged acting debut in the Marathi  film The Silence.

Shockingly enough, Nagraj plays a child rapist and a wife beater. He is not only shown brutally raping and  beating his wife(played by the  very accomplished Anjali Patil) his character also violates a little girl who happens to be his niece.

Now Nagraj is  flooded with hate calls from all across Maharashtra.

Says the  shy reticent media-wary 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.”

While accepting this heinous role Nagraj was aware he would be  judged harshly. Actors like Farhan Akhtarhave gone on record to say they would be loath to play rapists and serial killers,given the rise in crimes against  children and women.

Argues Nagaraj , “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. Me? I have a different take on  the issue of actors pre-judging 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 Silence  the  film’s strong statement  on protecting our children and women from violence would have been diluted.”

About being seen as a villain by the audience Nagraj shrugs, “Isn’t that a compliment to my skills as an actor? The very distinguished Marathi actor Nilu Phule who was a fine human being in real life, spent most of his career playing evil characters, so much so that he was perceived as an undesirable human being.And he was proud of that.”

Nagaraj sees the sexual predator in The Silence as  no ordinary  villain. “He is that evil force within us  lurking in so many middlclass homes. So often we hear of children being violated by trusted relatives. We all have  evil and positivity within  us. Which of  the two sides in our personality is given predominance is determined by  our own moral values.The uncle who rapes  the little girl in The Silence could be anyone anywhere 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.”

Nagaraj sees a lot of reformist cinema such as The Silence and  Nagaraj’s own historic Sairat 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 many more films on issues such as  sexual violence and paedophilia.”
So is  this the beginning  of a parallel career  for the National award winning filmmaker?

“Not really . If you remember I’ve done bit parts and cameos earlier. I had one in my own film Fandry. But  The Silence is  my first full-length role. I’d love to explore more acting  possibilities.”

In November Manjule Nagaraj begins shooting for his  first Hindi film starring Amitabh  Bachchan.

So would he have a role in that?

“I  will see if there is a chota-mota role for me .Who wouldn’t like  to share screen space with Bachchan Saab?  But  when I am directing I’d rather not do a major role myself.I am not so skilled as  to balance out two roles as a director and an actor in the same film.  But when I am directed  by someone else I’d like to  be seen in bigger roles.The Marathi stalwart Dada  Kondke could act and direct himself in film after film. I don’t have a  multi-tasking skill.”

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