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Let me start by saying I lived in New Delhi during the time of the
riots, and had close Sikh friends whom we had to care for at the time
of the mayhem.
That said, I went to watch the film with no preconceived notions. I was pleasantly surprised. It had its share of low spots, but that is the beauty of watching a first time director's work, you see them grow. Shonali is going to be a writer director to be reckoned with.
Like all good 'Films' that are based on true events this film walks the fine line of not getting too caught up in the heat of actual events. Instead it tries to dramatize or fictionalize the effects of the events on people lives. A fact that some audience don't seem to grasp. Especially, a substantial number of Indian audience (amply demonstrated on this site by the stupid review by ajaysaxena1960)! I sat through a Q&A session with the director where people wanted to know why the director did not name names of all the MLA's involved in the massacre. Or if the director could through her film, get the International tribunal to try Indian government for crimes against humanity.
SHE IS A FILM MAKER. NOT A HISTORIAN OR A CRUSADER.
The film took 8 years to fund and make (a crusade in itself), for that alone I admire the director. But of all the films done by writers and directors based in America, Shonali's film most certainly stands head and shoulders above the rest. She has a strong voice and a crisp sense of film-making.
A director most certainly worth watching!
I like "Amu the movie" tremendously. The movie has so many layers that
it is difficult for me to pinpoint to a single reason for its impact.
As a passive observer of compelling and authentic portrayal of a
journey of a Girl finding her true identity, I had suspended my reality
and enjoyed the experience. As an agitated follower of the injustice
highlighted in the movie, I was incensed by the implication of tacit
support . Yet as an observer of slow revelation of plot line, I was
enthralled. The acting, the directing, the photography and the
editing/music were totally endearing. The fact that there some people
in the audience crying and others sat in silence after the movie had
finished, showed that the movie had indeed touched all of us. It is
hard to believe that Shonali is a first time director, who captured on
celluloid a slice of life that was actually manufactured. Konkona Sen
was spectacular but Lovleen Mishra, Brinda Karat, Chaiti Ghosh, Ashish
Ghosh, Aparna Roy were all fantastic.
Finally, I would like to say, that in South Africa a unique experiment is taking place, the Truth and Reconciliation Commision. In India too, the wounds of destructive, ethnic cleansing violence go deep and are tremendously complex. It is indeed a bold step of shining the light on a dark period of recent history but "Amu the Movie" , is the step is taken in the right direction.
I look in great anticipation to others all over the world following in this film's footsteps and making more creative and more bold choices as Shonali has done in "Amu". I also look forward to many more viewers enjoying the tremendous journey of "Amu".
I was initially hesitant about watching Amu because movies with a
backdrop of communal riots don't sit well with me. However, I had heard
good things about the film and for that reason I also did not want to
Amu is a film about a young, adopted girl on a quest to find her birth parents. Kaju, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, lives in LA and is visiting India to be with her mother's family. During her visit she is also trying to get more information about her real parents, who she knows nothing about. The journey to find out her identity has her come across the characters played by Yashpal Sharma and Ankur Khanna, who help take her to each lead and finally to a point where she discovers her history. A history that is tied to the 1984 communal riots.
Amu is also about Kaju's relationship with her mother who is trying to keep the truth from her.
Shonali Bose does a fabulous job in telling the story and keeping the viewer glued to the screen. The cast was obviously selected very carefully. Konkona is completely believable as the young NRI. Brinda Karat as the mother puts in a wonderful performance, besides looking gorgeous! Ankur Khanna is perfect as the brooding, cynical Kabir, who gets exposed to a life he is completely unfamiliar with. Yashpal Sharma makes you laugh and makes you cry. The Bengali family as well as Kabir's parents are all people most Indians would have come across.
In conclusion all I have to say is that Amu rocks! It's a movie thats been made from the heart .... don't miss it.
I had the pleasure of seeing "Amu" during the launch of the first
annual Asian American Film Festival in Pittsburgh this past weekend.
Perhaps a fitting testament to the reason festivals such as this need
to exist in the first place, the film deals with a subject I hadn't
even known existed beforehand: the Sikh massacres in India over a
three-day period in 1984, and the complicity of a corrupt government in
facilitating and masking the events.
Director Shonali Bose, one of the producers (her husband, Atiya, I believe) and star Konkona Sen Sharma were all on hand to answer questions from the audience, and the political nature of the film led to a spirited discussion (and occasional debate) that, unfortunately, could not be condensed into the time allowed. Thus, given the film's stature and the importance of its subject matter, it's a shame to point out the shortcomings of its actual artistry.
As another commenter has mentioned, the film is generally well-directed but is not perfect. I agree that certain elements of its narrative (particularly the pacing, as well as a few contrived interpersonal moments) felt tacked-on or inauthentic, and were perhaps invented to couch the story in a modern-day milieu that could appeal to audiences before "surprising" them with the political content of the film in its second half, as the mystery of the main character's history is unraveled.
It's entirely possible the film would have worked better without the "mystery" angle, especially since it seems to come from left field midway through the film and then becomes all-pervasive, in direct contrast to the semi-documentary "romantic comedy travelogue" feel of the first half. What struck me most awkwardly was the disjointed nature of the "suspense" surrounding the eventual divulging of repressed information. The purposely vague ways in which Kaju's family avoids discussion of her past or, when confronted with conflicting information, seek to simply change the subject or stare pensively at the floor felt falsely melodramatic.
But all of my criticisms become quibbles when faced with the undeniable power of the film's few flashback scenes, which depict certain controversial events in an unflinching light. In those moments, Bose finds her true voice, and the voice of the victims in these unjustified atrocities.
Incidentally, one area the films succeeds in artistically is the casting of Konkona Sen Sharma as Kaju. Her accent and body language were flawlessly American on screen, as they should have been (Kaju is an Indian girl raised in America), but Bose explained after the film that Konkona has lived her whole life in India and was only given two weeks to immerse herself in Los Angeles's culture to prepare for the role of Kaju. Those who see the film will certainly agree that she succeeded.
This clearly was a movie of passion for writer-director-producer
Shonali Bose, a UCLA film school grad who wanted to tell a very
important story about her homeland's history after she had some
personal experience in the 1984 riots that followed the assassination
of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Bose wanted this film to appeal to audiences outside India - hence it is mostly in English - so she uses the plot device of a 21-year-old young Indian girl returning home from the U.S. for the first time. There, as she searches for her real parents, she finds out the ugly truth about her nation's recent history.
It's a brave, courageous attempt to reveal what happened in 1984, when several thousand Sikhs were massacred in what was a sanctioned move, if not a coordinated effort, by the government.
"Amu" takes a while to get going as we're introduced to the characters and the set up. It's fine, because the characters are engaging.
Konkona Sensharma is an absolute revelation. I realize that these days Aishwarya Rai gets much more coverage and publicity, but Sensharma is a much better actress, more convincing and gets thoroughly absorbed into her roles. As Kaju, Sensharma is utterly believable as a young woman who has spent most of her life in the United States. She has the mannerisms down, the accent's certainly not unbelievable and her emotions never ring false. I've now seen two films starring Sensharma - the other was "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" (2002) directed by her mother, Aparna Sen - and she's been brilliant in both.
The film's shortcomings, however, are in the supporting players. Bose did a fine job in casting Sensharma. But as Kaju's love interest, she cast Ankur Khanna as Kabir. Khanna's problem is he never makes Kabir even remotely interesting. To say Kabir is wooden would be an understatement. The lines are delivered in monotone and there's barely any emotion in this performance. I couldn't believe that someone as vivacious and sprightly as Kaju would find Kabir attractive in the least. True, Kabir tries to be a sensitive young man trying to uncover the truth, but Khanna's so flat and dull that their budding romance is difficult to fathom. When Khanna works for some emotion, it seems very forced. There's little, if anything, natural about his performance.
Brinda Karat as Kaju's mother, Keya, is adequate - you can see her trying really hard to wring emotion out of her performance. The film's other fine performance comes from Yashpal Sharma as Gobind, a Hindu tea shop owner befriended by Kaju.
Bose uncovers her story well, adding a few surprises here and there. I realize why Bose used the device of having an Indian American going back to India. But I wondered if it was necessary. I would've preferred if the story had been about the riots; the mystery truly was superfluous. Then again, I also understand Bose's need to get this film distributed and seen in North America and the rest of the world - other than India, I mean - and adding a western touch to it was (unfortunately) probably unavoidable.
Bose certainly isn't lacking confidence in her story. There's one quiet moment between Kaju and Kabir where Bose allows the scene to unwind quietly, without any music. It's a fine moment, a poignant and strong one because of Bose's confidence. But just imagine how riveting and unforgettable that moment might have been with a better actor as Kabir. Having seen Rahul Bose and Sensharma have such tremendous chemistry in "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer," I can't help but think Rahul Bose would have been sensational as Kabir.
The flashback sequences are predictable only in that you know when they're about to be revealed. On the other hand, some of them are extremely painful to watch. Seeing a riot sequence replayed in never easy, but Bose brings out the humanity and the inhumanity out awfully well. And as anyone who's lived through riots would attest, they seem very real.
"Amu" is an important film that needed to be told. It gets a bit didactic occasionally. More subtlety would've helped. Some of the dialogue clearly needed to be tightened only because Bose serves up lines to only be transitions to more expositionary speeches. It's forgivable considering this is Bose's first narrative feature. But the lines seem too obvious and with a little bit of tweaking, this could have been a provocative masterpiece. Bose's a good director, but she needed someone to come in and strengthen the dialogue in this film.
If you're looking for some different fare, something other than Bollywood out of India, do yourself a favor and give "Amu" a chance. Bose shows a lot of promise and that's good not only for Asian cinema, but for film-making as a whole.
This was a very well made movie and a very daring movie. Such movies usually fade away in India. Konkona Sen acted well and her American Accent was almost perfect and commendable. Shonali has poured everything in the movie. Konkona Sen shows why she is clearly apart and far above the run of the mill actresses of Bollywood. Other artists did their part well. About why the Great Govt. of India has banned the movie, there could be several reasons. Apparently the common reason is that the movie might have "raked up the long lost past". I'm not sure about that. Every sane person knows that the Govt. had a large role in the riots of '84 and I'm not saying this because I'm a sikh (because I'm not). I'm saying this as an Indian. Just like there was hand of the govt. when innocent Muslims were butchered in Gujrat a few years ago. Truth is easily suppressed in a country like India, but that didn't stop Shonali Bose from creating an award winning movie. Go see it.
I have to say, I was initially not looking forward to this movie based
on the lose plot line I had seen, but having seen in, I'm glad I did.
While there were a few rough spots, there were a lot of redeeming
qualities for this which makes this movie worth seeing.
For example, the historical look at an assassination in is done very indirectly by examining the life of one family. There is suspense, some interesting flashbacks, as well as some plot development which moves on reasonably nicely, with fairly good acting.
I think there were definitely points in the acting or possibly editing that would smooth out the transitions and increase the believability of the movie, but it is fairly easy to look beyond this after the plot line pulls you in.
The courage in telling this story is what is the most important part of this movie. This was good general knowledge information for me on a slice of Indian history as well as an entertaining tale on surrounding an important historical event.
The fact that Indian movies are much more viewable is shown best by
movies like Amu appearing in theatres.
Amu is about Kajju's (Konkona Sen's) exploration into her past. Right from the time I saw her in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, I have regarded her as an excellent actress. This movie is no different. Excellent, flawless acting bu Konkona who plays an Indian girl who has grown up in the US and comes back to India.
The acting by the grand mother of Kajju is interesting with some sharp dialogues 'how do girls pee from pants?'. The step mother's role is played excellently as well. However, the actor playing the boy friend to Kajju is far from satisfactory with his expressions. The screenplay also leaves a lot to be desired as a movie just about 90 minutes long has enough scenes in between which could have been edited to make the flow of scenes smoother.
The movie is about how Kajju slowly finds out about the dark riots of 1984 where Sikhs were mercilessly killed in Delhi. The politicians are shown as supporting the riots and the policemen doing nothing to help. It is a shocking reality which makes one wonder how human we really are.
And it is ironic that just as Kajju seems to come to terms with her tragic past, a newscaster from NDTV is shown on TV reporting about a train being burnt down in Godhra. That was the beginning of the gruesome riots of Gujarat which occurred in 2003. It seems we really will never learn from the past.
I just went to screening locally as part of an Asian American Film festival. Amu was the opening movie for the festival. I liked the film a lot. Not your typical Indian movie by any means. After the movie they had Q&A with the director, producer, and lead actress. The discussion gave some neat insight regarding the movie. For example a lot of the filming / subject matter was done in fear of govt censorship. The version shown, as well as the one to be released later this fall in the US, is different than what those in India saw at the theater. For example in the scene with the widows discussing with Amu & Kabir the riots and how the government tolerated the violence, that the widows voices are left silent as Amu & Kabir sit in silence.
First of all it's a delight to watch such unselfconscious acting and to hear English (and Hindi, Bengali) spoken so naturally. First time director Shobnali Bose elicits wonderful performances from most of her cast - many of whom are 'non-actors'. The script, too, is deliciously funny in parts, which off-sets well with the powerful and serious message underlying the film. The locations chosen capture the actual places represented so that the whole has the verisimilitude of a documentary film, even while the spectator is drawn into the lives of the characters whose stories are being told. All in all a very satisfying film, and a great debut.
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