Aamis: A hauntingly beautiful love story
This powerful Assamese drama is a maniacal genius of director Bhaskar Hazarika, perfect for the audience who have harboured taste for the unusual and complexity
An anthropology student, Suman falls in love with a pediatrician, Nirmala. However, Nirmali is married to her high school sweetheart with a school-going son. How will Suman enchant Nirmali to make an entry into her life? Through 'Aamis', which translates into 'meat' in Assamese.
The film introduces its main characters Suman and Nirmali, played by Arghadeep Barua and Lima Das in the first minutes. The scenes show a parallel of how Nirmali is confined in the ordinaries of life as a mother and a pediatrician, while Suman leads an adventurous life eating an entire goat in a jungle, who happens to be doing a PhD on the meat-eating habits and traditions in the Northeast.
Meet over 'meat'
The reason for their first meeting is also tied with meat. On his first try, Suman's vegetarian friend falls sick from overeating mutton. Suman seeks help from Nirmali for his treatment. Nirmali comes to know about Sumans' meat-eating club and lets him know she is up for tasting their meat.
Nirmali's acceptance of Suman's passion immediately intrigues him and he sends her a yellow lunch box of wild rabbit meat where she expresses her mental block for not being able to eat with her bare hands. Unlike most people who find this 'pretentious', Suman is empathetic towards her issue, which comforts Nirmali. This bonding over a sumptuous meal, with a plate full of exotic meats, is the first of many.
While Suman slowly starts developing feelings for Nirmali, he is unsure of Nirmali's. She seems to be more in control of her feelings. She invites him to meet her husband, Deepak, a borderline narcissist, who believes he is a selfless contributor to his society. He boasts about his grand sacrifices with his friends, holding a glass of wine. Deepak does not bother to show a glimpse of interest in what others have to say unless it's about how praiseworthy he is.
Adultery or something more?
Being introduced to Deepak, you would start to question the reality of Nirmali and Deepak's love. However, Nirmala is against infidelity. In earlier scenes with her married friend who is engaged in an affair, it is shown how Nirmali is unsupportive of this idea. She subtly belittles her friend for engaging with another man.
At this point, you would not mind if these two engage in adultery. Unfortunately, the story does not take such a predictable path and goes beyond taboo. What awaits ahead is a bizarre showdown of expressing love, an unworldly way of connecting with your lover without touching them.
In an attempt to do an experiment to see if there are other ways to be intimate with your lover, Suman unleashes something more ravening in Nirmali. Nirmali deliberately falls into this act of insanity and gradually loses all control of herself. She proves her own words right that he once told Suman's friend, "Meat isn't the problem, gluttony is".
The guy behind this masterpiece
Aamis is the second film by Bhaskar Hazarika who won a national award for his debut film, Kothanodi- The River of Fables in 2015. Kothanodi, simply described, is a live-action film of Thakurmar Jhuli stories.
While in Kothanodi, Bhaskar explores the stories of four women in different tropes of human nature, Aamis questions the very definition of love. What can be considered abnormal in love, when there is no universal definition of 'normal'?
Bhaskar, who is also the writer of the film, has chosen two debutantes for Aamis who made the film whole with their stellar acting performances. His portrayal of this unconventional bond that is built over their shared love for food is a perplexing one. You can find it intolerably disturbing while being fascinated at the film unveils itself.
Aamis is a bold genius of Bhaskar Hazarika and it relies on its slow revelations. As the film progresses, it gently comes out from its 'The Lunchbox'-esque atmosphere and takes the darkest possible turn. The director plays with your expectations throughout the film and he truly succeeds. Either the film will leave you with a distaste for meat or bemuse you by the untraditional form of love. Watch Aamis at your own risk.