Rahul Varma


Shonali Bose’s debut docudrama Amu isn’t merely a movie depicting massacre of over 5,000 Sikhs  following the assassination of India’s Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi, but more importantly a film that  makes a case for an inquiry into state culpability in organized mass murders and denial of justice for the  victims and survivors of 1984 communal carnage against Sikhs in the name of revenge. 


 After successful screening in India, Amu, a low budget but powerful film opened in theatres across North  America starring Konkona Sen Sharma, Brinda Karat and Ankur Khanna in leading roles backed by small  but memorable performance by Lovleen Mishra.  Amu is story of Kaju, a young Californian college graduate, played superbly by Konkona Sen Sharma, who  returns to India to visit her extended family with a curiosity to learn something about her roots as an  orphaned child who was adopted by a political activist played by Brinda Karat, who subsequently moved to  America. Fascinated by the normalcy of “craziness” of Indian life, Kaju embarks on the trail of discovering a  realer (as opposed to exotic) India through the lives of ordinary people living in urban slums, and one day  she is drawn into learning about the 1984 massacre of Sikhs. From this point onwards, what moves the film  forward — is Kaju’s desire to learn more about the massacre and her relationship to it.


Shonali Bose’s plot is smartly contrived and story is fictional but it leads the audiences into discovering a  bigger truth about the massacre that was not widely reported, and the culprits to date have gone unpunished.   So, it was no surprise that the Indian Censor Board held back the release of film until five lines that indicted  the government and police in the massacre were deleted, and then slapping it with R rating to minimize its  impact. But in fact it only heightened the impact. The film has drawn large crowds both in India and abroad.  Bose has been mindful and discreet in depiction of violence putting more emphasise on relationship between  the characters through whom the story unfolds.


This film is one more rendition from Diaspora artists who have dedicated their works of arts to something  historically meaningful rather than taking a artistic voyage back home in search of identity.  Amu has  garnered awards and acclaim from big name filmmakers. Amu works not only because it highlights a dark  chapter from India’s history but because it does so with artistic quality and imagination.  

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