Aamis: Not quite like The Lunchbox

I have been meaning to watch Aamis for a while, ever since my Twitter friend @BrutuTweets posted a recommendation a couple of months back. I finally got around to watching it today after my friend NKV posted about it in one of our WhatsApp groups.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers. Also, certain aspects of the movie might make you squeamish.

Aamis is a 2019 Assamese film written and directed by Bhaskar Hazarika. The basic premise of the movie is pretty straightforward. A young PhD student Sumon and a married paediatrician Nirmali meet and strike a friendship that is built over a shared interest in eating fresh and exotic meat dishes. They start off with rabbit meat, but then move on to increasingly taboo sources of protein.

I loved the opening shot in which this particular portable radio player is shown. We had the same one at home. It was extremely cool – with a hand crank that you could wind to recharge it. Seeing it brought back a lot of memories from my childhood – of how we’d sit on the stairs outside the front door and listen to the radio during power cuts; of my mother singing along with the radio in the mornings while making breakfast.

When they first meet, Sumon complains to Nirmali, ‘These days people put anything in their mouths. Not knowing where the meat came from, how it was stored or how old it is.’ This brought to mind a dialogue from the Malayalam novel ‘Verukal’ in which the protagonist Raghu takes his four year old son to his native village.

Similar to how Raghu’s children seemed to be losing touch with their roots, we also tend to forget how food reaches our plates.

My parents often tell me how eating meat was usually restricted only to special occasions such as Christmas and Easter while they were growing up. Chicken was sometimes served when guests came over – a chicken would be freshly killed and cooked. Nowadays, we’ve reached a point where we eat meat at almost every meal. The act of killing is far removed from actually eating meat, especially if you pick up shrink-wrapped broiler chicken from a supermarket. However there is truth in Nirmali’s remark, ‘Who has the time for all this? We have hectic schedules’.

The chemistry between the two is brought out nicely right from their first meeting. I also loved the small town vibes that are depicted in the visuals – they kept reminding of things back home in Trivandrum.

As the movie progresses, it forces you to try and answer certain difficult questions such as How do you decide what kinds of meat are ‘normal’? What you consider normal might seem disgusting to someone from a different culture or background. The scene in which they eat bat meat really drove that home. It reminded me of all the xenophobic and hateful messages that popped up in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic.

I took this photo of live scorpions on display in a market during my trip to China in 2018. I couldn’t muster the courage to try eating them…

During one of their outings in search of exotic meat, Sumon tells Nirmali that to really savour the taste of meat, you must eat with your hands. Nirmali disagrees though because it makes her feel uncomfortable.I’m with Sumon on this though. In my opinion, eating with your hands hits home different and food tastes infinitely better. Since moving out of Kerala, I’ve noticed from my personal experience in Mumbai and Delhi that eating (rice) with your hands is frowned upon. A professor at IIFT went so far as to say, ‘Eating with your hands is dirty. These South Indians do it though.’ This really ticked me off and I retorted, ‘Haan, sir. Aap toh roti spoon se khaate ho na?’

The movie manages to breach the topic of cannibalism in a delicate manner. Never at any point does it feel even remotely gimmicky or over the top. If it’s okay to donate a liver or kidney to someone that you love and care about, is donating your flesh all that different? At the same, these parts of the movie made me feel extremely squeamish but isn’t that the whole point? A movie should be able to make you feel something!

These scenes reminded me of The Lunchbox in some ways…

One scene that really stayed with me was the scene in which Nirmali repeatedly uses mouthwash in an attempt to get rid of the taste in her mouth. It reminded me of the famous line from Macbeth, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.’

I’m not sure if certain aspects of the movie draw inspiration from the story featured in the folk song ‘Paar Chanaa De‘. As described on Mangobaaz.com, ‘Mahiwal, at this point in his life, was poor. He did not have enough money to properly feed his Sohni. On one such night when Sohni was going to come, Mahiwal realized that he had no food to feed her. Without thinking, he carved a piece of his thigh. Without telling his beloved of his pain, he swam a part of the way to her wearing dark clothes so the blood would not show. Sohni ate the meager banquet laid before her with great relish that he prepared this meal out of love for her.’

I love watching movies in a language that I can’t comprehend. It forces me to look out for non-verbal cues more.
When the movie ends, you are not surprised. It was always obvious that this wasn’t one of those movies with a happy ending…

To conclude, I would recommend that you watch this movie for the chemistry that blossoms between Sumon and Nirmali and for that shell-shocked feeling that it leaves you with.

You can watch Aamis at Moviesaints.com by paying Rs. 99.

It’s not a joke, da! It’s my life!

Since 2015, I’ve described myself as ‘an aspiring stand-up comedian’ to my close friends and on my Tinder bio. During my first trimester at IIFT, I even spent a couple of sleepless nights making a video in which I try to convincingly lie about how stand-up was my lifelong passion – all in an attempt to land a summer internship at GCPL. (I never landed the internship though…)

To be honest, I have tried my hand at performing stand-up whenever an opportunity came up while I was doing my undergrad at CET. Back then however, opportunities in Trivandrum were few and far between.

(The above video is from an event in 2017, when I was cooling my heels in Trivandrum, before moving to Bombay for work.)

I have tried my hand at a couple of open mics in Bombay (without much success). And given how the lock-down doesn’t look like it’s going to be lifted anytime soon here, I thought I might as well put up some random jokes/observations up on this blog. I have nothing to lose, am I right?

So here goes nothing…

During my placement interview back in college, I made it very clear to the interview panel that I wasn’t interested in a conventional nine to five job. They seemed keen on hiring me and said they’d be willing to give me some amount of flexibility with respect to working hours. Things are good now. I work from nine thirty to five thirty instead.

I find Hindi extremely tricky. I find the whole ‘gender’ concept extremely confusing. The other languages that I can speak (English and Malayalam) have done away with such pointless frivolity. To highlight just how difficult Hindi can be at times, a moving scooter would be described as ‘Scooter chal raha hai’ whereas for a motorcycle, the equivalent would be ‘Motorcycle khadi hai’. In an attempt to recall this better, I force myself to picture scooters with dicks and motorcycles with boobs. It’s probably not the best system but it totally works.

I love reading. I read everything that I can lay my hands on – such as ingredients in my shampoo, the nutritional benefits of eating 15 grams of Lays and the instructional booklet that comes inside a box of condoms. Sometimes people write the most fuck-all things like the folks who think it’s important to print ‘This is not a toy’ on plastic packaging. But sometimes, people can write the darndest statements. I once used a urinal which had this written right above it – ‘The future of India is now in your hands’. So fucking profound, so many interpretations.

Engineers are shmucks – they almost never do any real engineering. All that education gone to waste. You know who I respect? Doctors. What they learn is real. And moreover, they can carry over whatever they learn on the job to their daily lives as well. Take for instance, my paediatrician friend. When scared children visit his clinic for vaccinations, he has this way of reassuring them. “Don’t worry, I’m going to poke you with a tiny needle. You will barely feel anything and I’ll be done in a minute.” Coincidentally, this is what he tells his wife as well.

I love Bombay. It’s such a cosmopolitan city. ‘It is a veritable melting pot of cuisines from all over India. There is something in here for everyone.‘ Once you’ve been to Bombay, it’s so hard to live anywhere else. I was recently travelling long distance by train – going back to Trivandrum. The train had one of those new-fangled, eco-friendly bio-toilets, in which the poop isn’t just dumped onto the tracks. Instead, it has been efficiently designed so that a pool of sewage collects around your feet. And it’s funny how that bio-toilet reminded me of Bombay. ‘It was literally a melting pot of cuisines from all over India. I’m not sure if it had something in it for everyone but it definitely looked like there was something in it from everyone!’

That’s all, folks!

(The title of this post is inspired by my friend Abhishek, who would get offended whenever we laughed at the comical incidents that he would narrate. And he’d remark in exasperation, ‘Don’t laugh, dude. For you, it might be a joke. For me, it’s my life’.)

CureFit: Gamification during the lock-down

Mathilukal: Not Exactly A Movie Review

Growing up in Kerala, I always knew that Adoor Gopalakrishnan was a big deal but somehow, I never took out the time to watch any of his films. Mostly because I thought they’d be dry and beyond my comprehension. Interestingly, I once met Adoor Gopalakrishnan at Chaitanya Eye Hospital, Trivandrum when I was around 8 years old. He smiled at me and remarked to my mother, “Mon sherikkum vaayikum, alle?” (Your son reads a lot, doesn’t he?)

Recently one of my friends on Twitter (not exactly sure who it was, think it must have been Brutu) shared a scene from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s movie ‘Mathilukal’. In the scene, Basheer (played by Mammooty) is informed that he has been released from prison and that he can return to the ‘free world’. Mammooty scoffs and replies with disdain, “What free world? You’re just shifting me to a bigger jail out there. Who wants freedom?” My curiosity was really piqued by just this one scene. I felt like watching more especially since those lines really seemed to hit home, given how we are all locked up at home right now because of the Corona pandemic.

In my opinion, one interesting aspect of the movie is how the character Narayani is never shown on screen. (Narayani is a female prisoner with whom Mammooty’s character strikes up a friendship (or a relationship of sorts). They have regular conversations with each other even though they are physically separated by the walls of the prison compound.) I think leaving Narayani to the viewer’s imagination is a masterstroke because the viewer creates an image of her according to his/her ideals of beauty. This reminds me of how some stage productions of Macbeth choose to have Macduff’s children killed off-stage to heighten the gruesomeness and depravity of their murders. In cinema and theatre, I’ve noticed that leaving things to the viewer’s imagination has a very strong effect if executed properly. Another scene that comes to mind is a scene from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, where a young Milkha Singh hears his elder sister being assaulted at the refugee camp. The act isn’t actually shown on screen, but we hear what happens. This is one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen in a mainstream Bollywood movie.

While watching Mathilukal, I couldn’t help but wonder how absolutely endearing Mammooty’s character is. This caught me by surprise, because you would expect a prisoner who constantly receives preferential treatment would come to be hated by his fellow prisoners. But somehow, he manages to win them all over with his affable manner. To conclude, the movie is a delightful watch and I would highly recommend it, especially since the lock-down is in place.