[Bollywood Movie Review] – I AM (2010)

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

I Am (2011)
My Rating: 4/5

I was expecting more actually from this film because I’ve been searching for English subtitle like forever. I can’t find one until now. Luckily, I found Indonesian subtitle and since our language is not that different, I stopped searching for it. By expecting more, I didn’t say this film is not good, it’s just less impactful. I was hoping it to be longer so that you can understand the story in many angles and the attachment of character’s emotion could be felt. It did affects you but later, you kind of moving on from the story (except story number 2 and 3, it will haunt me). However, this film received a tremendous amount of awards in India and even overseas. There is also a high amount of overseas screening in the film festival. There are 4 stories in the film but for me the story number 2 and 3 is my favorite. The way Manisha Koirala portrayed Rubina is so flawless. Juhi Chawla as Megha also proved to be not disappointing as well. This film also had its own attraction due the budget itself. Onir (the director) raised the production credit and asked people to donate via Twitter and Facebook to ensure the film got released. People sent their contributions and actors like Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala didn’t draw any salary from the film.

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Nandita Das as ‘Afiya’

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 I AM (2011) assembled 4 stories and 4 main characters that does not directly involve with each other but you can see their relation as a friend, client or old mate. The first story is about Afiya. She’s a strong and Independent woman and having her own career but she’s in the battle over her feeling to have a child or not. After finding out about her husband’s infidelity, they filed for divorce and Afiya’s plan to have a child seems impossible. She consulted with her friend, Megha on her plan to use sperm donor to get pregnant. Megha felt it was a bad idea and asking Afiya to hold and wait for the right guy to come. Ignoring all the objections, Afiya went on to a clinic to do a procedure. After the procedure, the video footage showing Afiya let go her problems and truly happy with her decision to do it.

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Manisha Koirala as ‘Rubina’
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Juhi Chawla as ‘Megha’

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The following story is about Megha, Afiya’s friend. She’s originally from Kashmir and her family was forced to flee to Delhi when there is a terrorist attack there. After 20 years living in Delhi, she returned to Kashmir half-heartedly with the intention only to sell her house there. Megha already proved that she’s no longer attached to Kashmir prior of her ability to speak Kashmiri no more and could not bear to stay there for more than 1 day. Rubina, Megha’s childhood friend was excited to show her around but got dejected by Megha’s indifferences towards her. Later in the story, Megha revealed her anger to Rubina that she was forced to flee home but Rubina never had to do so. She also feel infuriated when one of the tourist drivers said that all the pandit’s family ran away from Kashmir and has been labeled as a coward. She told him they are not in fact running away because Kashmir has been always their land. She also told him that they were forced to flee. Rubina felt offended by Megha’s statement and told her that she’s also not happy living in Kashmir. The situation already changed and there is no longer peace in it. There are only armies patrolling around and checkpoints that surrounded them. The tense arises and Rubina dismissed herself. Megha is left behind to ponder her friend’s feeling. This story is based on Sanjay Suri’s past in the Kashmir. Sanjay Suri is also one of the actors in this film.

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Anurag Kashyap as ‘Abhimanyu’s step father’
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Sanjay Suri as ‘Abhimanyu’

The third story is about a young successful guy named Abhimanyu. He worked actively in film industry and specializing in documentary film actively. Abhimanyu faced confusion over his sexuality while growing because of his dark past involving his step father. He has been molested and sexually abused by his step father in the very young age. He then used it against his step father to ask him to buy and give him whatever he wanted. He figured it was wrong but no one was there to help him, not even his mother. He grew up in the environment of always having an intimate relationship with his step father while his mother is not around. When he’s finally having had enough, he moved out from the house and tried so hard to avoid from meeting his family. He called his mother but rarely wanted to meet them directly. One day, his mother called and asking him to return for his step father has been sick. His step father asked for him and wanted to meet him before he passed away. Abhimanyu can’t hold his feeling anymore and he confided everything to his best friend about his past. His friend promised to accompany him to his home. He is too late and the funeral already ended. On the final scene of the third story, Abhimanyu confronted her mother about his dark past with his step father. He asked her whether she already knew and pretended not to know it or she really didn’t know about it. Her mother refused to listen and broke into tears when Abhimanyu asked her mother to call him when she is ready to know the truth. This story is inspired from the past of Harish Iyer, One of the prominent activists in LGBT and equal rights in India.

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Rahul Bose as ‘Jai’
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Arjun Mathur as ‘Omar’

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Last but not least, the fourth story is about Gay Rights in India. It was a simple story actually which has been complicated due to the same sex relationship. If it was Omar and Jaya, then the whole thing would not have happened. However since this is a story about Omar and Jai, the whole romantic date/one night stand turned disastrous. Jai and Omar met at a café around 7-8pm. They are totally stranger with seats not so far from each other. Jai then flirted with Omar and the next thing I see; they are having a dinner together. Jain then took Omar home but they stopped at a shady and away from people to have some ‘action’ together. They then were forced to exit from the car by the police officer who was in charge to patrol in that area. He wanted to bring Jai and Omar to the police but Jai refused since it will tarnish his name and reputation. The police officer then demanded Jai to pay him 100000 rupees as a bribe. When Jai only managed to pay 75000 rupees, the police officer took Omar into custody. Later when Jai went to Police station with his lawyer, he found out Omar was never there. He even pointed out the police officer that had taken the bribe from him but the police officer said he never met Jai before. That’s when Jai found out that Omar sets up the whole plot to extort money from him. In the final event, Jai managed to track Omar and confronted him. Omar promised to return his money back but Jai said it is not about money, it is about himself. He lost himself that night and felt so humiliated by it (Jai was forced to give the Police officer a blowjob when Omar went to ATM to withdraw his money). This story is retrieved from research material in the Online Portal Gay Bombay.

Overall, this film could receive more attention in the India Cinema (but from what I read, it failed to reach box office). Well, it is a bummer but it doesn’t surprise me at all. Most of them felt serious and realistic film like this only restricted to certain audience and not all of the cinema goers like to watch this kind of film.  If you want to watch it, please watch it for the messages and issues that they try to bring out and get cross in the film. You will be surprised that there are things you feel it wont happen but it did actually.

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