Aani Maani (2019) by Fahim Irshad

Entangled with simple joys of life, Director and Screenplay writer Fahim Irshad tries to linearly cinematize the tale of a Muslim Kebab seller’s day-to-day struggle. In the small-town setting of Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh, India), communal hatred and politics affect the life of a common man is being portrayed beautifully without being preachy or any cringe-worthy monologues. Yet the film raises many socio-political issues in such a subtle way that anyone living in India can relate to or would have already been in the shoes of the protagonist Bhutto.

Priyanka Verma looks gorgeous. Her sister in law makes fun of her for not being able to pronounce a Nukta in an Urdu word/name.

Farrukh Seyer and Priyanka Verma do a tremendous job consistently being in the character of innocent small-town (unlike “woke” types) couple with usual dreams like moving into their own house or to the least, being able to earn enough to support their family. The film is consist of a lot of real life-like characters. Bhutto’s sister (Neha Singh) is divorced and depends on her brother, has an 8-9-year-old daughter wondering why his father is not around. Parents are in their sixties have a significant contribution to household affairs. They quarrel like teenagers but are thankful and satisfied with the little their life had offered. A Nepali young boy who works at Bhutto’s Kebab shop wants to get married to a beautiful girl. The corrupt policeman can be identified by their “clothes” and “ruthlessness”, the ones who want to be bribed to even shoo a fly away from their own face.

Bhutto’s family takes a selfie with their guest who is awkwardly sitting in a corner.

Cops and local goons getting drunk and asking for bribes, very thoughtful cinematography Shailendra Sahu.

Bhutto’s Kebab shop. An old table Fan was set up next to the Tandoor to roast Kebabs. The small details that matter.

Father’s recording studio, egg cartons to soundproof the rooms or for better acoustics. A piece of carton falling can be seen, missed while editing perhaps.

Aachar (Pickle) making scene. As far as I know, you should never keep the row mango in direct sunlight after applying salt and turmeric. A guava tree in the Aangan, plants in plastic containers, a Charpai, limestone walls having a bluish tone are very familiar to anyone from north India.

A beautiful song Birhan can be heard, Samin Raza does a fantastic job as a music director who also wrote the lyrics adapting from Amir Khusrou’s poetry Koyla Bani na raakh. A Noha or Kalam by Syed Ali Muhammad Rizvi was a really nice surprise to me, added to my playlist but forgotten for a long time.

Zinda ye bedaari rahe
Ye silsila jaari rahe
Hum ho na ho is bazm me, qayam aazadari rahe
Nikle isi chokat pe dam
Ooncha rahe apna alam

Without giving any more spoilers, I want to mention some minor details that might be missed by the audience, but had a huge impact on the overall narration of the story. The film raises some issues in a passive yet seamlessly subtle tone. Contradictions of our patriarchal society, domestic and sectarian violence, communalism, religious influence on the socio-economic fabric of society and mob lynchings that we have been witnessing in recent times. The communal hatred against Muslims and other minorities in India is at its peak after the independence and formation of the Indian republic that is based on secularism and social welfare. “Beef Ban”, “Love Jihad” and “Hijab Row” are some of the recent controversies that raise a basic question, Does the state gets to decide what should a citizen eat or wear or marry? “Liberty, equality, and¬†fraternity” are the three principles on which the constitution of India is based.

Not only Bhutto but even I have been asked to Go to Pakistan many times for my criticism of the present regime. The final scene left a lump in my throat. I think the worst that can happen to a person is to witness their own child’s murder.

The lynching of Bhutto: a so-called Hindu-nationalist attack.
Bhutto is on his death bed surrounded by his family and close ones.

The news of the murder of Bhutto reaches his father burst into tears. “Sare Jahan se accha Hindustan Hamara” plays in the background.

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