I love that I was approached by CSAFF to write about the recent screening at the Chicago Cultural Center of “I Am” directed by Onir and released in 2010. I am a huge fan of anyone who takes risks in challenging the mindset of people – especially South Asians – because I personally believe the way our community thinks about so many social and cultural issues desperately needs to be challenged.
In my recent post about that mindset, I shared a thought from Aamir Khan, one of the few people in Indian media who is hell bent on raising awareness and affecting positive change. He said, “In our society, there are some bitter truths to which we turn a blind eye. When I look these truths in the eye, I become disturbed… I become sad. At times I wonder why think of things that do not concern me? My life’s working nicely, so what difference do these make to me? But it makes a difference. I am a part of this society. A string of events touches you, me, each one of us in its passing, resonating, reverberating. All said, those responsible for our woes are amongst us or maybe we are collectively responsible.”
I Am is a film about those truths to which most of us turn a blind eye and through 4 short films with characters whose lives are all interwoven, covers taboo topics like having a baby out of wedlock (by choice via sperm donation), child abuse, gay rights, and Kashmiri Pandits. The one common theme in all of the stories is of fear – the fear of coming to terms with your past and all the experiences which shaped you into the you that you really are but are afraid of being in a society that does not accept anything or anyone that does not fall into line with its traditional expectations.
I Am covers the above mentioned topics beautifully and honestly making them painfully real for the audience. I personally consider myself to be a very forward thinking and broad minded person, so to my surprise, parts of I Am were actually difficult for me to watch because they forced me to think about those things that I’d honestly prefer to be blissfully unaware about. For example, the segment on child abuse with Sanjay Suri’s character, Abhimanyu, made me sick to my stomach because the thought of someone doing that to a child is just too disturbing for me to wrap my brain around, and although I embrace and support same sex relationships, the segment with Rahul Bose’s character, Jai, made me uncomfortable at my own juvenile thinking (“oh wow, they are showing… dear God, what must the Auntie next to me be thinking, and.. Thank God I’m not watching this with my parents), and knowing how difficult it is for homosexual individuals at large due to general ignorance and small-mindedness, seeing how it must be for a male in India was just gut wrenching.
The female-focused stories, with Juhi Chawla (Megha), Manisha Koirala (Rubina), and Nandita Das (Afia) did not necessarily move me as much as the male-focused stories, but whether it was what happened/is still happening in Kashmir or the story of a not-so-young woman anymore forced to figure out a new life plan, the acting was wonderful and the pain and courage of each of the women to keep moving forward really resonated with me.
The topics covered in I Am are unique in and of themselves, but what is also interesting about the film is that it was funded by over 400 donations from individuals across the world using social media like Twitter and Facebook and several of the actors did the film for free. Although I Am received many accolades and critical acclaim, it is through social media that the movie is slowly but surely growing in commercial success; two years later after its release, people like me are watching I Am for the first time and I am sure that this will be a film that is talked about for years to come.
Last year, I attended the Chicago South Asian Film Festival for the first time, must have seen some inappropriate number of movies (12, I think), and left the weekend treasuring it as one of my all time favorite in Chicago, so if you are in town September, I hope to see you there!
Smita Chand is a film enthusiast and blog-writer. Her blog can be found at www.smilemoonsworld.com.
Powered by Facebook Comments