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“Aamis Is About Empathy For The Sinner Because To Sin Is Human”

Archita Kashyap - 63 weeks ago

Aamis, a story about love, lust and basic instincts, will travel to the US this April to compete at Tribeca International Film Festival in New York. We attempt to de-mystify the film’s intriguing premise with a chat with filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika.

(A still from Aamis)

Bhaskar Hazarika gathered a near-decade of studying and working in films to make a subversive and effective debut as a filmmaker with a unique story telling touch in 2015. Kothanodi, his Assamese feature that interprets Lakshminath Bezbarua’s folk tales for children into a base, bizarre and gripping world, was crowd funded and filmed in Majuli, the pristine river island. It premiered at Busan to positive reviews and won accolades at IFFI, among other film festivals. Bhaskar’s second feature film, Aamis, co-produced by Wishberry Films, Metanormal Motion Pictures and Signum Productions, explores contemporary territory with subtle but powerful sub texts. Aamis, a story about love, lust and basic instincts, will travel to the US this April to compete at Tribeca International Film Festival in New York. We attempt to de-mystify the film’s intriguing premise and the filmmaker’s reasons for making this his second project. 

Explain the title to me. Aamis in Assamese means non vegetarian food. How does that correlate to forbidden attraction between a young man and an older, married woman? 

The correct translation of the word Aamis would be meat eater, and its antonym is Nir-aamis, i.e. non-meat eater. However, in Aamis the big idea is empathy for the sinner because to sin is human. Meat is merely the trope used to try and achieve this. In the film we have also used meat as a device to explore alternative ways of touching, of achieving union, of fulfilling an all-consuming love that strains against the leash placed on it by social institutions.

Be it Kothanodi or Aamis, you make a colloquially based film and give it an unexpected, kinky twist. How did you take this ahead with Aamis

Is that what I do? (laughs). I only aspire to tell stories that ‘disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed,’ as the popular adage goes. I hope to continue to approach my work with that mind-set. All of us who worked on Aamis shared this vision, and we wanted to create a film which could turn into a hand, if you will, a hand that slips into people’s mouths all the way to their hearts, gives it one light squeeze, and comes back out. There’s even a hashtag for it - #Sadcore. 

Your film’s cast is interesting. Can you please explain how this has lent itself to the process of making the film? 

My understanding of cinematic love stories is that they are driven by memorable protagonists. So we wanted to take our idea of Sumon and Nirmali (the two lovers in Aamis) and find them in real people. Known actors come with the baggage of their past roles, which we did not want for this film. We wanted to present Nirmali and Sumon, not an X/Y actor playing Sumon/Nirmali. We extended this approach eventually to all the main characters in the cast. It also helps that in Assamese cinema there are no stars, so there is no pressure to cast known actors. That’s how we first approached Dr. Lima Das - who is a dentist by profession, an exponent of Sattriya dance, and just a very talented individual overall. Arghadeep, who plays Sumon, was more difficult to find. He fit our conception of Sumon in terms of physical appearance, but did not have the acting skills necessary to portray Sumon’s personality. So we switched things around, and made Sumon take on Argha’s awkwardly genteel persona. Our protagonists were supported ably by Neetali Das and Manash Das, both of whom have some stage experience, and also by Sagar Saurabh, which completes the main cast of the film. 

(A still from Aamis)

How did Tribeca happen? Are you going to promote and present Aamis widely in film festivals globally as audiences for such a film in Indian theatres is still limited? 

I hope the film has a long and successful run and is shown to people around the world. At some point if we can cobble together the resources we will consider going in for a small theatrical release in India too.  

Tags

Aamis / Bhaskar Hazarika / Tribeca Film Festival / Assamese Film / Kothanodi

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