Cast: Lima Das, Arghadeep Barua, Neetali Das
Director: Bhaskar Hazarika
For anyone that’s harbouring a taste for the unusual, the excellent Assamese film Aamis may be the best thing on the menu. Directed by Bhaskar Hazarika, the film explores appetites, cravings, desires and morals, until it all blends into a dangerous, thrilling cocktail. Watching the two people at the centre of this film exchanging meals that they’ve lovingly cooked for each other, I was reminded fleetingly of The Lunchbox. But in a clever twist, Aamis moves far away from that tender romance.
Hazarika, who has written the film too, presents us with daring ideas, frequently venturing into dark, even twisted territory. The result is a film that shakes you to the core, even while taking you on a tantalising visual journey.
Nirmali and Sumon are strangers drawn to each other over their shared love for eating unusual meats. Nirmali is a pediatrician in Guwahati; married, with a young son, and whose husband is often away for weeks in remote villages, researching diseases. When he is home, he’s a self-righteous bore, rarely listening to his wife, consumed by his “important” work in the villages. Nirmali is lonely and ripe for companionship when she meets Sumon, a PhD student younger than her, who’s researching meat-eating traditions in the North East.
The two set off on a shared culinary adventure. Over delicious meat dishes and conversations, they are drawn to each other. They quickly fall in love, but are mindful of how society may frown on their relationship. They can more freely explore their feelings in the food that they eat; in the meals that Sumon prepares. But their love for the forbidden takes them down a dark path. To reveal any more would be to spoil the suspense in this wildly unpredictable film.
What one must acknowledge is that Hazarika crafts a narrative that starts off like a sweet romance. Lima Das and Arghadeep Barua are first-time actors, and they bring a shy, fresh energy to their characters Nirmali and Sumon. But as Aamis freefalls into the bizarre, the music and the visuals take on more sinister tones. There is a lot of meat eating; the food shots are lovingly composed. The film suggests that just like we all have different tastes and appetites when it comes to food, we also have varied moral palates and desires. Nirmali, for example, is judgmental of her married friend’s casual affair, repeatedly stressing that she is yet to even touch Sumon. Aamis also looks at love under a microscope, revealing its tiny details, its beauty and its ugliness.
Both written and directed with extraordinary skill and insight, the film seizes your attention as it unfolds, and then leaves you pondering its themes long after the lights come back on. Be warned, it’s not for the squeamish; you’ll need a strong stomach to take it in. Still, I recommend that you make the time for it.
I’m going with an easy four out of five for Aamis. Bhaskar Hazarika reveals a solid filmmaking voice with this staggeringly original film that leaves you with many questions and yet delivers an incomparably satiating experience.
Rating: 4 / 5
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