Aamis movie review: Anurag Kashyap presents a maniacal feast for hungry masses; an irresistibly insane romance
- Aamis movie review: Writer-director Bhaskar Hazarika's new film, presented by Anurag Kashyap, might be too funky to swallow for most people, but as far as acquired tastes go, it's quite delectable.
Director - Bhaskar Hazarika
Cast - Lima Das, Arghadeep Baruah
Two years after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Bhaskar Hazarika’s irresistibly insane Assamese film Aamis has found its way onto SonyLIV. Which means that if you signed up for the service to watch Scam 1992 a year ago, you probably still have a few days left on your subscription to watch this. Win-win.
Deliberately designed to throw you off the scent, Aamis is a deeply romantic movie about food that gives Eat Drink Man Woman a different meaning altogether. Set in Guwahati, the film introduces its leads in a mellow opening credits sequence by juxtaposing their daily activities against each other. It leaves you with the sense that even before they’ve crossed paths, the PhD student Sumon and the paediatrician Nirmali are somehow connected.
Watch the Aamis trailer here:
He rushes to her practice on her day off – she's the first doctor he could find – and asks if she can take a look at his friend, who seems to have overeaten and is feeling very, very sick. After initially refusing – it is her holiday, after all – Niri agrees to accompany Sumon to his friend’s house, and swiftly prescribes a few medicines for indigestion.
On their way back, a curious Niri asks Sumon what he'd fed his friend to have left him in such a state. He tells her that he belongs to a 'club’, where him and a group of buddies cook exotic meat-based delicacies and feast on them together. The sick friend is a vegetarian; he simply wanted a taste, and ended up biting off more than he could chew. As compensation for the consultation, Niri laughingly agrees to accept a portion of the next dish Sumon cooks up for his club.
And thus begins a romantic story that will probably remind you of director Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox. But everything about it, from the luxurious shots of food to the deceptively delicate piano score, is designed to trip you up. Like Nimrat Kaur’s character in that film, Niri is also somewhat alone, and very neglected. Her doctor husband, Dilip, is mostly away on assignments, and she takes Sumon up on his offer of guiding her on a gastronomical journey across the state. She soon begins craving their ‘dates’, and realises that they have both overstepped invisible lines only after Dilip returns, sooner than expected.
Niri tells him about Sumon, and he sleepily asks her to invite him over for a meal one evening, thereby sending the film down a path that it will never return from.
The dinner sequence is a very well-constructed; it reveals so much about not just Niri and Sumon, but also Dilip. He’s full of hot air – not so much the alpha in his friends circle as someone likely to surround himself with lapdogs. For instance, it doesn’t take much for one of his guests to hail him as a great man, after he regales the gang — including a puzzled Sumon — with stories of his exploits. And then, when he makes a derogatory offhand comment about the eating habits of a community he was attending to, Sumon reminds him that the consumption of meat is a very subjective practice; what is considered acceptable in one community could be taboo to another.
The exchange functions as very basic foreshadowing, but then, an argument could be made that everything in the film leading up to that point foreshadowed the delectably deranged twists of the third act. Hazarika eases the viewer in with an hour-and-a-half of careful buildup, much like how Sumon tests the limits of Niri’s adventurousness by first feeding her rabbit meat, and then working his way up to bats.
Had Aamis not played its cards right, it would’ve alienated the immediately audience with Sumon's big revelation. Or worse, it would’ve had viewers questioning the logic of it all. But instead, by the time Sumon makes his admission, you’ve become so engaged with these characters that you don’t doubt their realities.
But perhaps a more satirical tone would’ve worked better towards the end? As it stands, Aamis takes itself a tad too seriously — even after it has crossed the threshold into nutty territory — to effectively convey what it wants to. By playing it straight, Hazarika clouds his own commentary.
Because more than a story about toxic love, Aamis is about the repression of Indian society. It is also, very quietly, about emancipation — of the mind, body and soul. Because Sumon and Niri can’t have sex, they satisfy their ravenous hearts with unhealthy amounts of meat instead. Which is ironic, considering that she’d dismissed a patient — Sumon’s friend — for being gluttonous in that early scene.
Lima Das is so effortlessly convincing here that it’s borderline scary. Niri goes through moments of incredible emotional upheaval — she is dealing not only with an absent husband, but is also trying to comprehend her feelings for Sumon, and the hunger that he has inspired in her. Das is at her best when she is terrified by her own choices, and the impulses that her mind is awakening in her. She is required to be assertive, but also slightly desperate and apprehensive. It comes together wonderfully on screen.
Aamis, blessed by the benevolent hand of Anurag Kashyap — just like the recent gems Eeb Allay Ooo! and Moothon — might be too funky to swallow for most, but like its characters, Hazarika also appears to be channelling his subdued creatives impulses. Like the dozens of kooky Korean movies that were released at the turn of the century, to the enraged middle finger to political censorship that was A Serbian Film, Aamis is exactly what you get when you suffocate unsuspecting people under systems of oppression.
It is almost cruelly ironic that the film has been rated U/A by the Central Board of Film Certification. Whether this is long-overdue validation or pure oversight, we will never know, but may this maniacal film inspire a feeding frenzy among the masses.