It is one of those few movies that you would watch crouching in the seat, with your legs folded against your chest, not realizing that you have been crying through out its running length. It is also one of those very few movies that you wish you had watched it alone rather than with a bunch of three other friends in a half empty hall, even if they are the most sensitive and the best people you have ever had in your life, so that you could just cry unashamedly as the characters emerge on the screen to hold you against the things that you have been trying to escape all along! It is definitely one of those few films that tell you stories of people in its raw and unadulterated forms.
Real and on-the-face, I Am Afia Megha Abhimanyu Omar is a string of four short stories that give you glimpses into lives of people who were betrayed, marginalised, abused and oppressed in one way or the other. As the stories slowly unravel life’s brutality and cruelty through its central characters, you know you are seeing the world that you have chosen not to acknowledge so far. But, you know that one day or the other you ought to see the truth and come to terms with it.
I Am Afia, is a story of a woman, played by Nandita Das, who is in search of a sperm donor to have a child without the support of a man in her life. She has decided not to trust a man ever again in her life, after going through the worst betrayal from the man she had been in love with. And she has to put a face to the man who is donating the sperm. Does she get to meet the man? Is she ready for making such a big step in her life? Even though the story in a way tries to enforce the gender stereotype of yearning for motherhood, there is a strong subtext that cannot be missed. The woman’s loss of trust in a man. This is something many Indian women will be able to empathize with.
I Am Megha is a story of a Kashmiri Pundit, Juhi Chawla who had fled away from Kashmir during the religious riots. Religion has not only butchered the lives of the loved ones, but has also brutally severed the beautiful friendship between Megha and her Muslim friend, Rubina, the role of latter played by Manisha Koirala. In this story, you are left with questions. Not just any questions! Questions regarding your fundamental sense of justice and faith! Who is the real victim? The one who ran away or the one who stayed back only due to lack of choice? When does ‘us’ become ‘you’ and ‘me’? You don’t get the answers. You know, the answers do not lie there on the screen but somewhere deep within you. Are you ready to see the realities of life beyond your hatred and bias? Now, go and figure out for yourself!
I Am Abhimanyu, is the story seldom told on the screen with such rawness and realism. The success lies in the subtlety of the story that hits hard on your face. The story may be shocking to many. A victim of sexual abuse by his stepfather in his childhood, Abhimanyu (Sanjay Suri) chooses to get comforted by the incestuous relationship as love. Later, he cleverly chooses it as a tool to exploit the stepfather for his own benefit. His undecipherable dreams in which he is a girl are sequenced beautifully, that you shudder seeing the harshness of the reality. The constant mewing of the nameless cats through out the story, tell you not just his story but the stories of many other Abhimanyus scattered across the world. And when his mother refuses to believe him after the death of his father, he questions her if she never saw anything or she never wanted to see anything all these days? No answer again! You know that this is the same painful silence that many men and women out there in the world would have endured in their lives. And when his girlfriend, Natasha, tells him that they will take good care of his nameless cat, which is the fourth one after the first cat that was killed by his stepfather in a fit of rage and the two other that met with brutal death, you wish someone had hugged you tight together to hold your shattering self from breaking into pieces!
I Am Omar is a story more about Jai (Rahul Bose) than about Omar (Arjun Mathur). This is a story about the cruelty and oppression that people face, just for being different in a world that is obnoxiously homophobic. Being gay in India is not easy. And IPC 377 that was recently read down, had only been making sexually marginalised people’s lives intolerable and miserable. On the night Jai meets Omar (you later realise that Omar is a male commercial sex worker), they flirt with a beauty that only Onir can manage to capture on the screen when dealing with a love affair that is not straight. And they head to a secluded place, only to get caught by a cop who threatens them to arrest if Jai is not willing to part with a huge sum of money. What then unfolds may seem completely unbelievable and shocking to many as what Jai loses that night is more than a sum of fifty thousand rupees. You come to know that these are just everyday realities for scores of people living hidden in the society. It also showcases the hypocrisy of the system and the moral guards of the society. And then you realise that the sense of morality is what is abnormal and not the people. And also you come to know that it is something that has only been invented by the power mongers of the society to nourish their own lives.
Finally, when the screen goes blank after showing you the stories of people that you would have otherwise not known, you are scared that you may find your reflections in the images that you just saw. You also understand that those images may come along with you out of the cinema hall and continue to haunt you for a while. You may be the untrusting Afia, or you may be the cynical Megha, or you may be the abused Abhimanyu, or you may be the marginalised Omar! Or worse you may be one among the others who made these people’s lives a struggle. You may be the husband who betrays Afia. Or you may be the stepfather who had slowly killed the conscience of Abhimanyu. Or you may be the repulsive cop! Or you may be the silent and helpless spectator like the mother of Abhimanyu. Or you may be the caring and loveable Natasha, the girlfriend of Abhimanyu. Or you may be Rubina, equally tormented by the people’s hatred towards other faiths. Or you may be Siddharth who offers a glimmer of hope to Afia in an important decision of her life. Or you may be Abhimanyu as well as Jai. Or you may be Afia as well as Abhimanyu. You could be anyone among those people! Or you may be a random collage of all of these people. You may be someone running away from the past. You may be someone failing to see and acknowledge the people around you.
But this is a movie that will not let you go off the hook easily. This is a movie that will haunt you and compel you to face the truth, realities and harshness of life that you have been trying to evade all these days!