Onir’s “I AM” is a phenomenal result of a sort of mass audience movement with a strong commonality of purpose. The film unfolds many a tale of individuals struggling to find their individual, sexual and geo-political identity. The title of the film “I AM”, in itself, is a declaration of an “open-ended identity”. The movie is a tale comprising four stories, woven together that takes audiences through issues and dilemmas of the modern Indian society. “I AM” can happen to anyone who doesn’t conform.
Meet the ‘I’s:
I am Afia
In the first story, played by the Nandita Das, artificial insemination gets a cinematic treatment as Nandita meets her sperm donor, Purab Kohli. As they speak gently into the night, a warm fertile relationship grows between them in the fertility clinic!
I Am Megha
For the second story, ‘I Am Megha’, Onir takes his compelling drama to Jammu and Kashmir. Here under the shadow of militancy, two dignified women, one a Kashmiri Pundit (Juhi) and the other a local Muslim (Manisha Koirala), interact with restrained annoyance. They are upset and angry. But their prejudices do not disturb the ambience of the valley. The conundrum of their lives is one but unfolds in their own eccentric ways and provides for an austere show.
I Am Abhimanyu
This story is on child abuse is understandably a portrait of acute complexities by the director’s determined evasion of any self-pity in the abused child’s character. Rather, Abhimanyu (Sanjay Suri) grows up as quite a manipulator, not sure of his sexual preferences but sure that he’d exploit all the worth resources coming his way. Amazingly the film goes through the three phases in Abhimanyu’s life, as the abused child going on to a manipulative adolescent and thence to whining adulthood, in a very short share of the total running time. The sexual candour of this episode makes for remarkable viewing. Onir desists from making any judgement on those who scar the wounded.
I am Omar
The most devastating story is saved for the last. ‘I Am Omar’ is a story straight out of every gay person’s favourite nightmare. While making out in a car with his newly-acquired partner Omar (Arjun Mathur), Jai (Rahul Bose) is accosted by a vulgar homophobic cop. Abhimanyu Singh as the cop comes up with a fantastic performance in the film. His filthy language and his even filthier intentions towards the cowering gay man are brought out by the actor with a clarity that provides a perfect characterization. The makers of I AM are also blessed with the most wonderful team of actors and technicians.
I AM is about glimpses into the lives of people. There is a beauty in simple things, and a dignity in individual struggle – through its stories, as the makers rightly claim,’ I AM reflects the story of everyone’. Every story has its own unique rhythm. Each protagonist carries his burden of guilty and grief to the last. Each story tries to make us aware but do not try to control a social change. It’s dark but with optimism in heart that morning is round the corner. It makes us think. Such films are urgently needed to bring about all positive and possible interventions in our hearts, minds and the socio-political space. It’s thought provoking.
For now, I await another declaration from ‘Team Onir’, to start another crowd funding venture over some social networking sites. There was a ‘We’, therefore came ‘I am’.