Aamir – movie review
This 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 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.
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 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 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.
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).