Amar Colony review: A striking exploration on loneliness and desire
Multigenerational women desire for space in this sensitive and delicate film that played at the 12th Dharamshala International Film Festival.
Someone keeps knocking at the door at Amar Colony. For asking to ring a number through. For collecting the waste in the morning. Shimla-based filmmaker Siddharth Chauhan’s debut feature film Amar Colony settles down in this one dilapidated building where the lives of its residents collide along the way. The opening scene is beautiful- where all the inhabitants of the colony sit together and eat in silence as the camera does a full circle turn. Bottled up desires threaten to break free in this sensitive drama, that premiered at the 12th Dharamshala International Film Festival this year. (Also read: All India Rank review: Varun Grover makes a tender, crowd-pleasing directorial debut)
In one room, there is the wheelchair-bound widow Devki (a fierce Sangeeta Agrawal) living with her son, who cooks for the both of them. The other room houses a heavily pregnant woman named Meera (Nimisha Nair), whose husband rarely returns home from work. Lonely and yearning for intimacy, she forms a liaison with Devki's son. Then there's also the ageing Durga (Usha Chauhan), the owner of the house, who is a staunch devotee of Lord Hanuman. She miraculously believes that she is getting younger by the day. Her husband, on the other hand, runs a garment shop, but there are more secrets at play which will come under the notice of their orphaned grandson soon.
In Amar Colony, Siddharth Chauhan responds to the constantly shifting dynamics of this building in bold, confident strides. These are characters who are somehow chained by their circumstances, unable to move past their current realities. Chauhan, who also wrote the script, understands the alienation and crushing loneliness of this world inside out. In fixing the gaze inwards, the film provides space and privacy to these characters with varying physical and emotional needs. When Meera embarks on a brief torrid affair, she is mistaken to think that no one will know. Yet, the revelation occurs like a minor slip, as if it's another addition to the piling web of secrets that cling to the colony. All of them lead double lives; one that defines and outlines their public selves stands in stark contrast to the other that lurks behind closed doors.
Amar Colony loses some of its grip in the latter half when Meera's husband returns. The reason behind his disappearance appears like a sudden jump, one that feels rushed and directionless. I kept on hoping that there would be some amount of depth revealed in-between their relationship that has grown over these years at home, and how it arrived at this point. Moreover, the positioning of his relationship and voice feels forced rather than organic, somehow never providing the space for the character to breathe.
As much as it stands out for its raw and delicate exploration of suppressed desire, I also wished that Amar Colony also explored these characters outside the specific lens in a more formally imaginative fashion. Specially the scene where Meera responds to the truth of her husband feels shockingly underwritten. There's a certain embedded distance between the character and the audience that works for as well as against the film by its denouement. Meera's character, particularly, could have been explored a lot more. Still, Amar Colony marks the arrival of a daring and talented new filmmaker with an original, distinctive voice.
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