Movie Review: I AM (2010)
I’ve been a fan of Director Onir since I watched MY BROTHER NIKHIL and it blew my mind. A first ever Indian film depicting an AIDS victim, and it was done to perfection. So imagine my surprise when he does another film years later, which almost went ignored by the mass audiences… I AM. Here is my Movie Review…
Blank Page Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars
I AM is an innovative film with a massive star cast, with a story dealing with various issues that plague Indian society that, much less be dealt with, aren’t even acknowledged as being problems in the first place. Everything from child abuse, homosexuality, Religious tensions and the social reactions to alternative family lifestyles, are all touched upon in I AM.
I am yet again blown away by Director Onir’s ability to showcase these issues without beating our heads in with a preachy message. And he does this 4 times over in I AM. Featuring the stories of 4 different individuals, I AM is a movie with 4 segments about different characters, somehow intertwined together. And it’s brilliant.
I AM AFIA
The always amazing Nandita Das kicks off the movie as a single woman whose failed relationship prevents her from fulfilling her desire to have a child of her own. She begins considering sperm donors. Throughout, she has to deal with the pros and cons of doing so, while she eventually settles on Purab Kohli’s character as a donor. This segment really deals with the struggle one goes through when coming to such a decision, and the roots behind it. Is it a biological need, loneliness, an urge to feel wanted, needed, and most importantly, loved by someone? It’s a very somber segment that is carried by Das’ quiet and restraint performance. What Afia goes through is very subtle and it’s never once goes into hyper emotional mode. It’s also very cool that Anurag Basu, director of BARFI! Plays a small role as Afia’s Doctor.
I AM MEGHA
Playing a friend to Afia, Juhi Chawla is featured in the next segment as an independent, but exiled Kashmiri woman, who has to return to Kashmir in order to finalize some paperwork to sell their home there. This segment causes a lot of tension as at first, we see Megha very upset at having to return to her home town. It’s confusing at first, especially to someone like me who’s not educated on the intricate details of the issues between India & Kashmir or its history. The reveal happens wonderfully, as the suspense builds and is further punctuated through audio flashbacks of events in the past. It’s an innovative technique that I haven’t experienced before. Chawla, who has done more comic roles recently, shines in this rare dramatic performance where she’s not playing her usual bubbly and perky self. Manisha Koirala also appears in this in a brieft yet strong performance near the end, which touches upon the other side of the issue.
I AM ABHIMANYU
Probably the most extreme and visceral story comes to us through one of my favorite actors who isn’t quite active these days. Sanjay Suri returns with an intensely terrific performance of a man who constantly uses everyone in his inner circle and has a terrible secret to hide. This segment touches upon the commonplace topic of child abuse in India, which is never discussed or resolved. Suri gives us a beautiful performance of a man torn apart by his past, whose adult personality is severely affected by what he’s gone through as a child. This is the most intense of all the stories being told, this is chilling to watch and Onir is able to handle the shock worthy scenes with such delicacy and implied conclusions that it’s not vulgar or crude. Anurag Kashyap, director of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR has a small cameo in this segment as well.
I AM OMAR
The most emotionally violent and shocking story comes with Rahul Bose’s character. A gay man who goes through a terrible experience during an encounter with another man. This segment touches upon the condemnation that gay men have to go through in India, not just culturally, but even by the authority figures such as the Police. It’s a great commentary on the emotional turmoil and trauma that homosexual people must face in India, even to this day. It’s a bold move by Bose as well to be playing an openly gay man, who gets entangled in a mess. Onir is able to showcase the victimization of homosexuals in society, without any exposition or spoken words other than the unfolding of an awkwardly tense scene.
I AM… is a brilliant piece of filmmaking by Director Onir. These are the films that lend credence to the concept of socially responsible filmmaking and are able to catapult an industry to international standards. Such filmmakers are blazing a trail by using such subject matter in films, as a means of breaking taboo and getting the masses to be more tolerant.