Saturday, April 30, 2011

#111: I am...

The movie has probably the maximum number of producers in a film. Here's how- since director Onir wasn't getting a producer to fund his movie, he reached out to people on Facebook for donations. So even someone like me who is so unconnected in the circle of Bollywood, could've contributed to the film and seen their name on the end credits. It wasn't just a novel idea, it was effective as well for it would've been a shame if a movie that dealt with such explosive issues had fallen through because of lack of financial support. I am is a collection of four short films titled Afia, Megha, Omar and Abhimanyu- stories dealing with themes of artificial insemination, child abuse, treatment of Kashmiri Pandits and gay rights.

Like any anthology, there had to be a standout piece amongst these. That segment is very clearly Omar, a story based on gay rights. With Rahul Bose and Arjun Mathur, the film focusses on exploitation of gays in the mainstream society. Since it's based at a time before the Delhi HC judgement came out, it makes you aware of the humiliation they had to go through just because of an alternate sexual preference. Playing a character named Jai, Rahul Bose's performance as the wronged protagonist is jaw-droppingly brilliant. Omar is not a story without loopholes and yet it's enactment is so powerful, it will hit you harder than falling head-first onto a floor of marble.

The segment on the fate of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, titled Megha, is the next best. In Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala, the story had two wonderful actresses to work around with and this one does justice to their combined talent. Without going into the hows and whys of the bleak period of the late 90s in Kashmir, it's a reflection of the residual effect of terrorism on the families that were left behind and the Pandits who had to flee the state fearing oppression. Kashmir is a topic that everyone has a viewpoint on and for Onir to deal with such a complex issue on film in about half an hour was no small feat. The objective wasn't to point fingers but to portray what became of the place that was once known as Paradise on earth. The other two segments Abhimanyu and Afia are based on child abuse and artificial insemination. While Afia was simple, direct and had a dash of warmth with Nandita Das and Purab Kohli, Abhimanyu was stark, layered and complex with Sanjay Suri and Anurag Kashyap in the lead. Both stories equally worthy to be on film. Abhimanyu as the end credits tell us is based on the story of real-life characters.

The best of I Am is it's stellar cast. These are actors with whom one doesn't go wrong nine times out of ten and a director of Onir's capability was surely not going to be the tenth on this scale. Onir's previous movies ranged from light comedies like Sorry Bhai to the pioneering My Brother Nikhil. As a director, he brings perspectives in films that you and I will probably not think of but still be able to relate to and that is his greatest strength. Movies like I am are extremely courageous in form it's a credit to Onir's conviction that he can weave stories around these issues, find no producer to back the project and yet come up with enough funding to complete it. In spite of the long wait and the struggle, he's indeed made something that deserves every seat in that neighborhood theater to be full when the curtains go up on I am... this weekend and for the sake of that arduos journey of filmmaking , hopefully of many more to come.

Rating: 7.1/10