By Amrik Chakraborty
Alright, so I recently saw this beautiful movie called AAMIS directed by Bhaskar Hazarika. The very existence of this film is a matter of immense pride for Indian Cinema. There are some films where you applaud for the courage of the film (/filmmaker), somewhere you applaud for the beauty of the film and then there is AAMIS. Such a brave yet beautiful and melancholic movie. Here’s me diving into a few aspects of the movie. Just a disclaimer that I am not sure that what I have interpreted is exactly what the director wanted to say. So enjoy. [ SPOILERS AHEAD ]
I usually get really annoyed when filmmakers underestimate the intelligence or the visual literacy of the audience, as a result, too much of exposition. I love how Bhaskar Hazarika doesn’t waste much time in character introduction. He gets done with it by a beautiful title sequence, giving us the basic idea of these two characters’ everyday lives. Nirmali and Sumon are the two characters around which the story revolves. Nirmali is a pediatrician in Guwahati, married and has a kid and Sumon, a Ph.D. student younger than her, who is researching meat-eating traditions in the North East. As the two characters bond with each other over various meat-eating sessions they find themselves drawing closer to each other. In a very smart shot, Nirmali’s car driver looks at her and Sumon walking towards the car through the side-view mirror, this is the filmmaker establishing that ‘OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR’. Amidst all this, there is no touching of the skin. We see both the characters stressing on the fact their relationship is absolutely platonic, we even see Sumon google ‘platonic love’ in a scene. In a brilliant moment of sound design by Quan Bay, Sumon and Nirmali are in a theatre watching a play, something during the play makes them laugh and as Sumon gazes at her beautiful laughter, the music of the play becomes the foreground score for expressing the tide of love inside Bhaskar’s heart. Absolutely beautiful! Nirmali’s gradual hunger for meat is hinted while she is searching for meat at the dinner table and while Sumon is talking about different meats, in a party, the camera moves towards Nirmali in an orgasmic manner as she closes her eyes in a sense of pleasure. Sumon, on the other hand, starts feeling the need for physical love in their relationship. In a brilliant scene where Suman is fantasizing about Nirmali in his dreams, I got reminded of Lester’s rose petal dream in ‘American Beauty’.
I’m changing the para here because this is the part where I’ll be talking about the conceptual twist in the movie. The film takes on a sinister tone here and enters dark territories. ( Again, if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading, go watch it and then come back. You have been warned.) Just as Sumon’s dream ends he feels the desire to experiment with his physical needs. He cuts a piece of his flesh, cooks it, and sends it to Nirmali without telling her what it is. Nirmali texts him and says that the food was very tasty and unique, asking Sumon to cook this again. When Sumon reveals to her that it was a small piece of his flesh, Nirmali is thunderstruck. As the film progresses, Nirmali’s extreme hunger for that specific type of meat shadows her shock. As the characters enter into these unexplored territories knowing that they are committing a sin, the visuals and the sound design take on an eerie tone. Sumon realizes what a horrible mistake he had committed when Nirmali takes him to a morgue and asks him to get a big piece of flesh from an unregistered and fresh dead body. I really like how the conversation after they exit the morgue has been shot and edited. A series of bokeh city lights and handheld camera movement merges with their horrifying and casual conversation about how to arrange for human meat, to express that the thin line of the morality of both the characters has been blurred. In a scene we see Nirmali bring a witch-like smile to her face as she gazes at grilled chicken in a street shop. I really liked how the director decided to used Lima Das’s beautiful smile and create an arc out of her smile throughout the film. As the film progresses, Sumon promises Nirmali that he will arrange the meat for her and satisfy her hunger, once and for all. This oath leads him to kill an innocent rickshaw-wala. While he is cutting the rickshaw-wala a police officer spots him. This leads to the downfall of their fate as Sumon and Nirmali are arrested for murder and cannibalism.
Now what I love about the movie is that director Bhaskar Hazarika decides to treat AAMIS as a love story from start to end, regardless of the subject matter. As Sumon and Nirmali are taken out of the police station and are surrounded by media persons while the state is calling them out as a shame to the community, the foreground music is a very sweet score instead of a tensed score because even if they lost the fight with their morality, they consider it as a victory for their relationship. And in the final shot of the film, we see their skins finally touching each other as they slowly hold each other’s hand and accept their fate.
By Amrik Chakraborty