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Aamir – movie review

June 17, 2008

Aamir posterThis genre (thriller) is my favourite genre, but few thrillers have managed to thrill me the way Aamir did. There was no hype surrounding this film but it’s doing well even 10 days after its release. The cinema hall was packed when we saw it on Sunday, and we had to buy tickets in the fifth row from the from the screen. I haven’t seen such a rush even for big budget films in recent times and this is a low-budget film (made in just Rs 5 crore but some say half the amount and director says budget was Rs 20 million.) It has a first time director (RajKumar Gupta), a first time leading man (Rajeev Khandelwal, TV Star) as well as a first time cinematographer (Alphonse Roy) and a first time music director (Amit Trivedi). All brilliant.

There have been accusations that the film has been inspired by the Filipino film Cavite, but well, I don’t know as I haven’t seen Cavite. All I know is that this film was shot entirely in Mumbai and tackled issues that concern us in India.

The treatment
The movie reminds one of Satya in a way…because of the realism and the shooting technique employed in the film. The camera moves freely (hand-held) and we get to see everything from almost every angle and the movement is smooth. The zooming in (close-ups) technique is used here too, like in Sarkar Raj, but the difference is immense. In Sarkar Raj it was clumsily done but in Aamir, the camera moves skillfully from close-up to long shot. The mix and match is just right…there is no doubt whatsoever that the cinematography is a work of art. Even if the story was inspired by Cavite, this kind of cinematographic work is not possible to copy…it requires great talent which Alphonse Roy has in plenty. Most of the shooting takes place outdoors (like in Satya), the camera capturing life as it actually is…or perhaps one should say it captures the way life moves. The editing (Aarti Bajaj) is tight but doesn’t take away from the clarity…it’s just enough to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat.

The movie is shot mostly on the streets of Mumbai. The bystanders and “extras” seem like real people, as if the director has picked up people from the streets and hired them to do bit roles.

The subject
This movie is serious, fast-paced, and it is centered around the core issue of terrorism. Aamir means “leader” and this takes on significance as Amir proclaims that he is not a leader, not a hero, but an ordinary man who wants to live his life. A man who wants to be left alone. But the end tells us that Aamir is no ordinary man…that he is indeed a hero.

The actors
The movie belongs to Rajeev Khandelwal…all others are bit characters, mostly the villains. There is no romance and no leading lady. Khandelwal acts well, and even more important, his “look” is just right for the film. As for the look of the other characters – it was absolutely brilliant! It was as if the director actually took real people to act in his film.

The story (no spoilers)
The movie tells a story of the hunted and the hunters. The director has handled the subject (terrorism) with great sensitivity and I thought with wonderful objectivity.

The film, which tells of the happenings of just one day, is entirely from the point of view of the central character in the film – young Dr. Amir Ali (played by Rajeev Khandelwal). This creates the suspense. We have no idea why strange things are happening to Amir, why he is being targeted…after all he is just an ordinary middleclass person, although a bright one. He has come up in life by getting scholarships and working hard…and the story begins when he returns to India after a stint in London. He wants to come back because he has a family…three sisters, a younger brother and mother waiting at home in Mumbai.

Amir is a Muslim and right at the start we are shown how Muslims face discrimination at the airport checking counters. It annoys the young, fresh-faced Amir but well, this isn’t what the movie is about. It is not petty officials who will worry Amir….but people from his own community.

The director wastes no time in getting on with the story. As soon as Aamir steps out of the airport the drama starts and the pace doesn’t falter for a minute! It is a roller coaster ride for the viewer…right from the time when hapless Amir watches a motor-cycle zoom towards him and throw a cell-phone into his hands!

There is the slight question of the bright red brief-case and why it should be bright red…but I think that was symbolic.

The locale
The story takes place in the poor areas of Mumbai, Muslim dominated. Everything is shown just the way it is…we see it all unfold in dark alleys and filthy lanes, in overflowing gutters and smelly godowns, in stifling rooms and over-flowing toilets, in the eyes of Amir and in the eyes of innocent children. There is so much realism that we can smell the garbage on the streets and taste the oily chicken curry.

Overview
If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t miss it. Unless you don’t like thrillers or dark movies. But this isn’t really a dark movie, in the sense that it’s shot in broad daylight. :) And the music is good, but no singing. Just theme songs.

(The photograph is a promotional poster of the film)

Update: 21st July 08. I got a link which is a blog post written by Anurag Kashyap (film director) who is the creative producer of Amir, denying that the film is not a copy of Cavite. At the same time he says they bought the rights of Cavite anyway…just in case (comment 22).

Related reading: Ghajini Review (Aamir Khan in the lead)
Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic Movie Review
De Taali Movie Review
Sarkar Raj Movie Review
More Movie Reviews (English and Hindi movies)

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42 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2008 3:44 am

    i simply loved the movie. Rajeev acted really well.
    first timers in this movie are highly talented.

    i loved the song reham allah. do listen to it..

  2. June 17, 2008 9:21 am

    This is one film I am waiting to watch..

  3. vivek mittal permalink
    June 17, 2008 9:36 am

    i didn’t even know such movie is released b4 seeing this review………now i’ll make it sure to watch the movie.. as it’s a thriller…..and the review is encouraging

  4. June 17, 2008 9:43 am

    I’d seen promos of this on TV. Very god review and now its scheduled to be watched on this weekend :) :)

  5. Aditi permalink
    June 17, 2008 10:54 am

    Hi Nita,

    I’ve heard that the entire film was shot with a hidden camera, with continuous takes, which is what gives it that natural look.

  6. wishtobeanon permalink
    June 17, 2008 6:21 pm

    Sounds like a good movie – will try to watch when it comes on dvd.

  7. vishlesha permalink
    June 18, 2008 4:35 am

    i loved thids movie rajeev is mindblowing in the movie the movie was so good

  8. June 18, 2008 7:17 am

    Thanks all for your responses! You won’t regret seeing this movie, it’s so unusual and well, classy!
    Aditi, thanks for that tip!

  9. cena permalink
    June 18, 2008 12:36 pm

    liked it…kudos to the crew….

  10. krishna permalink
    June 18, 2008 4:17 pm

    the movie aamir is only a step forward in taking us all to a reality check and will haunts us for long. its undoubtedly one of the best films in recent times. kudos

  11. Manik Pathak permalink
    June 19, 2008 3:07 am

    Beautiful review for a beautiful movie. Kudos

  12. vishal12 permalink
    June 19, 2008 4:50 am

    To add to Aditi’s comment above (about the cinematography) — This is Anurage Kashyap School of Movie-making! He did this (i.e. shooting in real, open public places) earlier in Black Friday, and also in Satya.

    In Black Friday, most of the outdoor shots (in which aam junta got involved unknowingly) were taken from roof-tops and balconies. But in Aamir, the debutant cinematographer (Alphons Roy) put cameras in trailers parked in public places and covered them with black plastic sheets, leaving small holes for the camera lenses.

    (In Black Friday there’s a long chase sequence, in which, a suspect is being chased by police. Since the public didn’t know this was a movie, they did actually try to snatch that guy. And the actor, who was being chased, courageously unclasped himself from them and continued running. It looked so real in the movie, because it *was* for real!)

    Check out my thoughts about the philosophy of Aamir on the following post: http://vishal12.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/what-i-took-away-from-aamir-movie/

    Anyone who follows this link be prepared that the end of the movie is given out, which can spoil your fun if you haven’t yet seen the movie – Nita.

  13. Rajiv permalink
    June 19, 2008 9:29 am

    After a long time I saw a movie so good…. Rajeev has really acted well.. hope to see more such good films

  14. June 19, 2008 11:27 pm

    Got to see this one!!!! :D

  15. vishal12 permalink
    June 20, 2008 12:06 am

    Yes, thanks Nita for putting that warning upfront. (I have now put a spolier warning in the first paragraph of my post as well.)

  16. June 23, 2008 4:37 pm

    i’m looking forward to see the film now.. i trust your words!

  17. June 24, 2008 1:58 am

    Nice review. I loved the movie too.

  18. Jatayu permalink
    June 25, 2008 1:04 am

    This is a wonderful movie…..the movie that makes u think……the direction and story of movie is very seriously thinked…….and Rajeev khandelwal really has prooved himself by doing such a serious roll…..and the music is also good…..especiallly ” har kadam”Mehfuz

  19. pankaj patil permalink
    June 25, 2008 11:19 am

    This is a good movie. But, i wish i had not seen Black Friday and Khudakeliye before this, since Aamir just seems to a trailor of what we can see in Black Friday and Khudakeliye.

  20. Rajesh permalink
    June 25, 2008 10:11 pm

    It’s a fantastic movie. It’s truly a movie of they year. Rajeev’s performance has been outstanding. Rajeev, You’re welcome to the movie Fraternity!

  21. Kunal permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:55 pm

    The aim of the movie to disturb your sleep in the night. You donot get up for popcorn in the interval. Even after the end of the movie you donot feel like getting up and your leg get tired.
    You even do not feel like talking with any one and like a whisky you want to enjoy the ending and wished you were Rajeev Khandelwal.

  22. June 27, 2008 1:17 pm

    HELLO HEY BYE
    GOOD MOVIE

  23. fawd permalink
    June 29, 2008 10:56 pm

    I LOVE SUGAL . BIG B

  24. Aamir fan permalink
    July 5, 2008 2:24 am

    Aamir is really a Excellent Movie.Hats off 2 bollywood for making such superlative products of Hindi cinema!!! kudos to the entire team of Aamir for giving us a invaluable masterpiece. that many like me would definetely remember for years to come.This is a new milestone of the genre of Realistic Indian movies! Hats off to that!

  25. vishal12 permalink
    July 5, 2008 7:55 am

    I just watched Cavite, the Filipino thriller from which Aamir clearly seem to have been… inspired. I wanted to say *copied*, but I read somewhere that the producers of Aamir have bought “adaptation rights” from the makers of Cavite. If they did that, I am glad and I really appreciate that. But I found *huge* similarities, not only in the story, but in the screenplay, in locations (narrow alleys in slums, squatter camps etc.) and in the political backdrop (terrorism, muslim/minority oppression). And all of that can’t just be coincidental. I am highly skeptical about (director) Raj Kumar Gupta’s and (creative producer) Anurag Kashyap’s claim that the script of Aamir is original. That’s just hard to believe. Two people could have coincidentally come up with similar stories, but only identical twins who got separated at birth, could have executed the movie in the same manner in which both Aamir and Cavite are executed. I mean, come on!

    Changing the end of the movie, and replacing a hand-held (constantly moving) camera with a steady one, doesn’t make one’s script original.

    I am very disappointed.

    I am very disappointed too, learning about this. Rather, I should say saddened. And no they have not bought the adaptation rights. I know that for sure because of this article in which the director of Aamir says he spoke to the producers of Cavite and got a go-ahead from them, after telling them of the “coincidental” similarity in the stories.- Nita.

  26. sreedhar permalink
    July 5, 2008 10:20 pm

    I AM VERY MUCH DISAPPOINTED WITH THE MOVIE. it was a wonder for me to see positive reviews for such a movie. it lets hindi movie industry skills at question. none of our regional movies of similar kind have ever been soo stupid. I WONDERED ALL COMMENTING ABOUT THE HANDHELD CAMERA, TAKING etc. THEY ARE ALL ADDONS. THE DIRECTOR HAS NOT WORKED ON THE STORY AT ALL, EVEN AFTER HAVING A REFERANCE. for me whole of the movie went very slow, capturing his and unhappening sceens like walking, thinking shot in real time if not more. so many silly mistaces and some blunders.
    USE LOGIC, addon will come later.

    1. HERO CAN THROUGH OFF THE SUITCASE INSTEAD OF HOLDING IT. I DONT THINK IT WILL COME BACK AND BOARD THE BUS ON ITS OWN.

    2. HERO NEED NOT MAKE A GREAT PUSH IN I- TO THE BUS, HE WAS AT THE WINDOW, CAN ASK THE CO PASSENGER TO HAND OVER HIM THE SUITCASE HE FORGOT.

    3. NO IDIOT WILL PUT HUGE MONEY OR BOMBS IN A RED ATTRACTIVE AND ATTENTIVE SUITACE. ANY DAMN GUY WILL TRY TO MAKE IT LOOK NORMAL NOT ABNORMAL.

    I CANT TYPE MORE THAN THIS OR EVEN INTERESTED IN WASTING TIME.

  27. July 8, 2008 3:43 am

    Let me be upfront and say that I have not seen the movie (watching new releases outside of India is still a bit of a challenge). The reason I am here is to congratulate the music director; Amit Trivedi oh ‘Ha Raham’. Just to be clear my background is a pure rajput, but still god is one, and Ha Raham surely is one of the best songs I have heard in my life… I will be surprised if something else catches my fancy so much. I might be an anomaly… But still, keep up the great work Amit and expecting more greatness out of you!!!

  28. Ravi permalink
    July 14, 2008 12:43 am

    I saw this movie cause of your positive review. I Just saw this movie and its worth watching. The plot is deceptive and succeeded in makin me hold my nerves. Good background score and surprisingly for the first time the songs are relevant and situational unlike in most bollywood movies. Photography is good. Overall a good short movie.

  29. Kanwal Jeet permalink
    July 18, 2008 5:33 pm

    Amir may have been inspired by a foreign film, but its rendition is both eloquent and convincing. India is full of copy-cats, but only a few had been able to do such wonders that Amir has done. The work done in this film (not only by the actor but all the off-screen crew) is comendable. The film literally leaves a pang in the hearts of viewers. A must dekko for all cinema buffs.

  30. Rajan Iyer permalink
    July 21, 2008 5:36 am

    What a fantastic movie. I saw it from the middle, then started all over and watched the movie from beginning to end! Very engaging and fast paced and highly recommended. Very authentic and dont have enough words to praise it. Apart from the storyline itself, the locations, cinematography, the small actors and the music, everything really stands out.
    Few hindi filmi glitches like the attention grabbing suitcase and trying to rush back into the bus in the end etc but I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars

  31. Kunju's mom permalink
    July 21, 2008 10:59 pm

    Glad to read yet another wonderful review about Aamir.. here’s my bit on Aamir and Raj, the director :) http://kunjamma.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/aamir-rajs-first/

  32. javed permalink
    August 9, 2008 11:03 am

    bakwaas movie, slow dragging ghatiya acting and more over same theme..grow up mumbai directors..be more creative and realistic.

  33. rit permalink
    August 22, 2008 8:07 pm

    Best movie of the year 2008.A Quality Hindi movie after a long time. Thank GOD atleast not a copy of any Hollywood movie.Will leave an impact after watching.Superb background score. Very good screen play. very mature acting by Rajeev K.this movie and the hero and the background score should be nominated for the national award. A MUST watch movie.

  34. rakesh permalink
    October 2, 2008 4:27 am

    I did watch Aamir after hearing from friends who like good movies. For once I thought I can watch an original movie but sadly, it turned out to be a very cheap version of Cavite. I really coax people to watch the movie and feel the grip that it takes of the viewer in the first few minutes itself. The ending has been changed in Aamir to keep it likeable but then it really compromised the movie.

  35. October 9, 2008 7:51 pm

    WOW…what a movie…Guys its a must watch..
    I salute the crew , the camera moves are just awsome , music is great specailly Ha Raham I keep replaying that song , I am Sikh by religion and this song reminds you that God has no limits…
    Good job RajKumar Gupta, Rajeev is excellent too.

  36. Prince permalink
    December 11, 2008 6:55 pm

    Great movie! Great music! I absolutely loved this movie from all aspects. A must-watch, that’s what it is. :D

  37. saurabh permalink
    August 9, 2009 11:37 pm

    hi .. this was a very good movie….and rajiv did a great job …..and the massege a clear from this movie…..well directed by anurag

  38. Ravi permalink
    November 24, 2009 9:09 am

    One word. Horrible. I live in the U.S and watched this movie over Netflix and it was complete garbage! What a waste of my time!!! What’s the point of having an innocent, educated, humble man to just be caught in a terrorist scheme and have himself blown up? It’s absurd! HUGE WASTE OF MY TIME. What could have ended in 10 minutes, took about almost 2 hours. I find this movie – degrading, discouraging, no moral value, ect. Do you want to put your own country down? Why?

  39. June 1, 2010 3:48 am

    This is a very good movie. And rajiv was one man show only in this movie. Good direct by anurag. Every one changed mind to minority.

  40. asif permalink
    October 7, 2010 1:47 pm

    This movie is stupid. I don’t know why the Godfather has to go through all those trouble to put a suitcase in the bus. Just pay one of your own guys to put it and leave the bus. Why call Karachi and Get a code and trick swap the “red” suitcase. You got his family hostage. Just make it simple and orfer him directly.
    This director has seen one too many “holywood” thrillers. FOR GODS SAKE, bolywood have some creativity..

  41. rahul permalink
    June 12, 2013 2:03 am

    Raelly a good flim

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