The film has four different and completely unrelated stories. Read the review of I Am to find out more.
Business rating: 0.5 star
Star cast: Juhi Chawla, Nandita Das, Manisha Koirala, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose.
What’s Good: The performances of the stars.
What’s Bad: The festival-like feel of the film will not go down well with the commercial-minded people who buy tickets to watch the film..
Verdict: I Am will prove to be a resounding flop at the ticket windows.
Loo break: Not really.
Watch or not?: Watch it if you are a connoiseur of art cinema.
Anticlock Films’ I Am (A) is a film with four different and unconnected stories. The first story is about Afia (Nandita Das) who has just walked out on her philandering husband. She feels, her identity will be complete through the singular feminine experience of motherhood. Disillusioned by men in general after the failed marriage, Afia decides that she doesn’t need a man in her life or marriage to have a child. She takes help of a sperm bank and a donor (Purab Kohli) to get pregnant.
The second story is about Megha (Juhi Chawla), a Kashmiri Pandit, who had been forced to flee Kashmir with her family in the early ’90s. She returns to Kashmir to sign the papers of her ancestral home, and meets her childhood Muslim friend (Manisha Koirala) and her family. Megha is bitter about how Muslims had made them homeless and she wants to erase everything about the horrific past from her memory.
The third story is about Abhimanyu (Sanjay Suri) who is trapped by the demons of his childhood when he was sexually abused by his stepfather (Anurag Kashyap).
The fourth story is a horrifying tale of sexual discrimination, blackmail and prejudice. It reveals how the police uses Article 377 (which criminalises homosexuality) to harass and blackmail gays. Omar (Rahul Bose) is a gay who is caught red-handed with his partner (Arjun Mathur) in a car. The policeman (Abhimanyu Singh), who nabs them, then blackmails Omar.
Story and Screenplay – I Am Review
The first two-mentioned stories have been penned by Urmi Juvekar while the last two are works of Merle Kroeger and Onir. First and foremost, the film would appeal to a very thin minority of the audience which is more inclined towards art cinema because at least three of the four stories are too bold and uncommon for the general masses. Although Megha’s story about tension in Kashmir is not bold, it is a topic that’s quite old now for the audience to really care.
The philosophy of Afia about taking the help of a sperm donor is so radical that not many in the audience would empathise with her, more so because she has had one bad experience which can’t be used to generalise that all men are unfaithful. The two stories about gay relationships would hardly be everyone’s idea about entertainment and would rather put off a number of people among the audience. Also, since the stories are unrelated, the viewer gets the feeling of watching four television films rather than one feature film. Sadly, the concept of paying for watching a telefilm does not exist in India.
Star Performances – I Am Review
Nandita Das does a fine job as Afia. Purab Kohli is natural. Anurag Basu is good as the doctor. Manav Kaul gets very little scope and is alright. Juhi Chawla is suitably restrained as Megha. Manisha Koirala, as her Muslim friend, does a fair job. Rushad Rana is okay. Behram Rana and Madhu Sagar lend good support.
Sanjay Suri lives the role of Abhimanyu. Radhika Apte is wonderful as his friend. Shernaz Patel is okay. Anurag Kashyap passes muster; he seems to be a bit too conscious of what he is doing in the film. Master Zain Salam is ordinary.
Rahul Bose is natural, as always. He acts with remarkable ease. Arjun Mathur, as his gay partner, is so-so. Abhimanyu Singh gives a splendid account of himself.
Direction, Music & Cinematography – I Am Review
Onir’s choice and narration of the four stories are of the kind which would appeal to the elite audience only, more of the type which likes festival films. The film’s English and abstract title will only add to its tale of woes. Music (Amit Trivedi, Vivek Philip and Rajiv Bhalla) is in keeping with the mood of the film. Arvind Kannabiran’s cinematography is good. Editing (Irene Dhar Mallik and Onir) is crisp.
The Last Word
On the whole, I Am may be a bold and good attempt for the festival circuit but it will have to struggle hard to establish its own identity in the commercial arena. Therefore, it cannot hope to do much at the box-office.