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Film review: Hunger’s not a game in ‘Aamis’

  • Bhaskar Hazarika’s ‘Aamis’ is bold and subversive
  • In this Assamese film, experimentation with exotic meats escalates into a dark desire

A still from Aamis
A still from Aamis

The mundane life of a paediatrician in Guwahati is enlivened by her acquaintance with a young PhD student. Sumon (Arghadeep Barua) passionately shares details of his study on the food and eating habits of the North East with Nirmali (Lima Das). His interest in unusual meats fascinates Nirmali, who is curious about sampling some of the dishes Sumon speaks of.

Instantly attracted to her, Sumon gently begins wooing Nirmali by cooking her meals. But experimentation with exotic meats soon escalates into a dark desire for all kinds of forbidden food.

Nirmali’s respectable life in Guwahati is tinged with the frustration of a less than satisfactory marriage. Her pompous husband is absent for weeks at a time, working in rural areas.

Aware of the taboo associated with an affair with a married woman, Sumon finds creative, outlandish ways to make physical contact with Nirmali. In turn, Nirmali’s appetite grows stronger and is irrationally aroused. In one scene, when fritters are offered for dinner at home, Nirmali turns up her nose in dismay, to which the maid replies that she thinks that the good doctor has been having a little too much non-veg lately.

Director Bhaskar Hazarika (Kothanodi) builds the narrative steadily, capturing the essence of taboos and unspoken desire (in the flavour of the 1992 film Like Water for Chocolate and 2017’s Raw).

Hazarika creates a relatable portrait of middle-class life in Guwahati. The film is shot mostly in daylight, with montages of prettily dressed-up tiffin boxes lovingly cooked by Sumon arriving at Nirmali’s clinic. The affair hovers tauntingly on the brink, until it doesn’t, slipping into extreme deprivation. The sensory nature of courtship is transferred from touch to taste, underlined by Quan Bay’s music.

Barua is every bit the young man infatuated by the lovely and adventurous Nirmali, played with a disquieting allure by Das.

Until the last scene, which disappointingly yields to a moralistic, tabloid-serving feeding-frenzy, Hazarika sure-footedly overturns the idea of erotica, carnivorous hunger, addiction and depravity, making the smartly directed Aamis bold and deliciously subversive.

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