Maya (2001) [Hindi]

Maya

I found this movie deeply disturbing and I don’t think anyone reading this would be even remotely interested in watching “Maya”. I really wish I hadn’t picked up this movie.

Verdict: Avoid unless you want to be disturbed – very disturbed.

Except for the last bit, Angela Baldassarre’s brief is spot on:

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, along comes a movie that shocks you back into revulsion. Digvijay Singh’s first feature, Maya, has the charm and delicacy of the Iranian films of the past five years, but the horrific ending of any child-abuse documentaries.The first half of the movie is all sunlight and laughter as 12-year-old Maya causes mischief with her beloved foster brother, Sonjay. Although the children are properly punished for their misbehavings, the parents are loving and attentive. This only prompts the lively kids to keep running away and causing more havoc.

Then the tone of the film begins to change. When Maya gets her first period, her life is suddenly changed. Now considered a grown-up she is forced to help her mother in the kitchen, and is no longer allowed to run around freely as she used. Sonjay, meanwhile, doesn’t understand the sudden change in attitudes, and becomes rebellious. And while the family prepares to return to Maya‘s biological parents for an “initiation ceremony,” there is still no indication of harm.

But Singh’s atmospheric tone begins to indicate that the horror is about to come. While Maya is prepared in gorgeous celebratory dress to embark on this “ceremony”, her father and foster father lavish the priests with gifts and foods. Their hope is that the ceremony will make their beloved Maya truly blessed by God. After all, her mother and grandmother underwent the same initiation ritual, and “look at how happy they are.”

When Maya goes behind the temple doors with the priests, that’s when we’re confronted with the truth behind the “ceremony.” Although filmed tastefully, the scene is unwatchable and shattering. In the opening credits the film indicates that Maya is based on actual events currently taking place in India. If this is so, the world to this critic has become even uglier than imagined.

Hats off to Singh for having made a brave, involving and ultimately memorable first film.

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