Aamis Movie Review: Anurag Kashyap Presents a Manic Feast for the Hungry Masses; an irresistibly crazy romance
Director – Bhaskar Hazarika
To throw – Lima Das, Arghadeep Baruah
Two years after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Bhaskar Hazarika’s irresistibly insane Assamese film Aamis has found its way onto Sony LIV. Which means 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.
Purposefully crafted to baffle you, Aamis is a deeply romantic food film that takes Eat Drink Man Woman to a whole new level. Set in Guwahati, the film introduces its protagonists in a soft opening credits sequence by juxtaposing their daily activities against each other. This leaves you with the impression that even before they cross paths, doctoral student Sumon and pediatrician Nirmali are somehow linked.
Watch the Aamis trailer here:
He rushes to his office on his day off – this is the first doctor he has been able to find – and asks her if she can take a look at his friend, who seems to have eaten too much and is feeling very, very sick. . After initially refusing – this is his vacation, after all – Niri agrees to accompany Sumon to his friend’s house and quickly prescribes some indigestion medication.
On the way back, a curious Niri asks Sumon what he fed his friend for leaving him in such a state. He tells her that he belongs to a “club”, where he and a group of friends cook exotic meat delicacies and feast together. The sick friend is a vegetarian; he just wanted to taste, and ended up biting more than he could chew. In compensation for the consultation, Niri laughingly agrees to accept part of the next dish Sumon is making for his club.
And so begins a romantic story that will probably remind you of The Lunchbox by director Ritesh Batra. But everything is there, from luxurious food plans to deceptively delicate piano sheet music, is designed to trip you up. Like Nimrat Kaur’s character in this film, Niri is also a bit lonely and very neglected. Her doctor husband, Dilip, is primarily on a mission, and she accepts his offer to guide her on a gastronomic journey through the state. She soon begins to crave their “dates” and realizes that they both crossed the invisible lines only after Dilip returned, earlier than expected.
Niri tells him about Sumon, and he sleepily asks her to invite him over for a meal one evening, thus sending the film down a path from which he will never return.
The dinner sequence is very well constructed; it reveals so much not only about Niri and Sumon, but also about Dilip. He’s full of hot air – not so much the alpha in his circle of friends as someone likely to surround himself with pocket dogs. For example, it doesn’t take much for one of his guests to greet him as a great man, after regaling the gang – including a bemused Sumon – with stories of his exploits. And then, when he makes a flippant derogatory comment about the eating habits of a community he cared for, Sumon reminds him that eating meat is a very subjective practice; what is considered acceptable in one community may be taboo in another.
The exchange works like a very basic foreshadowing, but then an argument could be made that everything in the movie leading up to that point foreshadowed the delightfully deranged twists and turns of the third act. Hazarika facilitates the viewer with an hour and a half of painstaking build-up, much like how Sumon tests the limits of Niri’s adventure by first feeding his rabbit meat and then working his way to the bald ones. -mouse.
If Aamis hadn’t played his cards right, it would have immediately alienated the audience with Sumon’s big reveal. Or worse, viewers would have questioned the logic of it all. But instead, by the time Sumon makes her admission, you’ve become so engaged with these characters that you don’t doubt their realities.
But maybe a more satirical tone would have worked better towards the end? As it stands, Aamis takes himself a little too seriously – even after crossing the threshold of hazelnut territory – to effectively convey what he wants. Playing straight up, Hazarika scrambles her own commentary.
Because more than a toxic love story, Aamis talks about the repression of Indian society. It is also, very discreetly, a matter of emancipation – of mind, body and soul. Because Sumon and Niri can’t have sex, they satisfy their hungry hearts with unhealthy amounts of meat instead. Which is ironic, given that she had fired a patient – Sumon’s friend – for being gluttonous in that first scene.
Lima Das convinces so easily here that it borders on fear. Niri is going through times of incredible emotional turmoil – not only is she dealing with an absent husband, but also trying to come to terms with her feelings for Sumon and the hunger he inspired in her. Das is at her best when terrified of her own choices and the impulses her mind is arousing within her. She must be assertive, but also slightly desperate and fearful. It combines beautifully on screen.
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Aamis, blessed by the benevolent hand of Anurag Kashyap – just like recent gems Eeb Allay Ooo! and Moothon – perhaps too funky to swallow for most, but like her characters, Hazarika also seems to channel her muted creative impulses. Like the dozens of wacky Korean films released around the turn of the century, to the rabid political censorship major of A Serbian Film, Aamis is exactly what you get when you suffocate unsuspecting people under systems of oppression.
It’s almost cruelly ironic that the film was rated U / A by the Central Board of Film Certification. Whether it’s a long overdue validation or a simple oversight, we’ll never know, but that this manic film inspires a binge eating among the masses.