Every once in a while, the hindi film industry throws an indie gem at you, inevitably making you wonder why we make silly movies in the first place. Last year, we had Johnny Gaddar, Neil Nitin Mukesh sharing screen space with Dharmendra and Zakir Hussain under director Sriram Raghavan to give us a technically sound crime caper like few others.
The double-o-eight equivalent of JG is Aamir, a gritty tale told from the dark and depressing underbelly of Mumbai’s Muslim dominated areas. Director Raj Kumar Gupta, does justice to his namesake, Santoshi, and brings out the best in his fellow first timer, actor Rajiv Khandelwal on screen.
Shot in real locations across the dingy by-lanes of Mumbai, the film really has a hard hitting impact. The plot is simple really – an Indian doctor, who is a Muslim, returns from London to his family in Mumbai, only to find that his family has been kidnapped. He has a telephone thrown in his face, and is ordered to follow a series of instructions, ironical, because the name Aamir means leader, and he becomes a follower of instructions from an unknown source to protect his family. As he is made to run around Mumbai’s ghettos, in the hope that he will join the ‘terrorists’ in their war, Jihaad, he encounters dirty latrines, indulgent prostitutes and goons out to get his money.
One of the best things about the movie, is that it defies every stereotype that has been the undoing of many a great film. There is no heroine, no item number in a kotha in the ghetto, no songs that the lead actor breaks into to display his sadness and sorrow, no over the top love story, other than the one between Aamir and his family. The fact that only the protagonist is helpless and the rest of the world doesn’t really care too has been expressed in fashion that is as close to reality as possible. The twists in the tale don’t take the beaten path and Rajkumar’s expertise shows while handling this difficult subject.
The film scores astonishingly high on cinematography, editing and a totally mind blowing background score. The scene where Aamir gets down from a taxi to clear out a small traffic jam, which he would have endured, sitting in the taxi and cursing in any other case, is typical of a man who does what he needs to when fate asks it of him.
Finally coming to the actor himself. A lesser actor would have made a hash of the whole film, but Khandelwal displays the right amount of anguish and pain as he carries Aamir off on his able shoulders. Clearly, the actor has come a long way from playing inane characters on K-serials, and is ready and willing for more challenging stuff in his career. A remarkable debut for the guy, in a movie where the economy of dialogue and the wide variety of facial emotions take the cake.
Aamir is a film for a niche audience, as I discovered while watching it amid hysterical fits of inappropriate laughter in the multiplex auditorium by my neighbours who were more worried about why Aamir doesn’t eat the tandoori chicken he was offered by his nemeses, while they held his family captive? The Indian movie industry seems to be slowly coming of age, will the Indian audience follow suit?