Rape. It’s an international issue, but in a country like India, where speaking up about an attack often means defying cultural and religious tradition, one that rarely gets addressed.
In his new film, White, director Aneek Chaudhuri defies tradition, directly addressing the fight of victims to resume a normal life in the wake of their trauma. He does so through stories of three women – one who is pregnant as a result of the attack, another a single mother raped in front of her daughter, and a third who is preyed on when her husband is away from home – whose trivial daily tasks suddenly take on a newfound weight as they attempt to get back to life as it was.
White doesn’t attempt to do anything extraordinary in its portrayal of these women. They eat, they sew, they wash the dishes. But as they carry on, haunted by memories of their assaults, Chaudhuri seeks to show how even such simple tasks become great obstacles to their well-being. Static, lingering shots amplify the agony, occasionally taking on an abstract vibe, but predominantly settling in a grim reality toned earthy brown. The rapes themselves are not shown, but their presence is clearly felt.
The film is also free from dialogue, a decision that works in context. The score from Siddhartha Chatterjee is simple, and quickly fades away to make space for sound effects that notably complement Snehasish Mitra’s cinematography. A ticking clock, the chirping of birds – the lack of dialogue, ironically, serves to highlight the presence of sounds that otherwise would go unnoticed.
Performances from the leaders are mostly unremarkable, if solely because the very nature of White means there’s so little performing for them to do. They are natural, unassuming, and unfaltering.
Each of the three stories – which run approximately 15 to 30 minutes each – is shot completely differently, but White still manages to come together to create a unique and often challenging film. While it’s certainly not going to be for everyone, those who are looking for an unconventional reflection on the strength of women to overcome pain and injustice will likely appreciate Chaudhuri’s endeavour.
White screens as part of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne on Saturday, August 18th.