Sudhir Mishra is one of the most under rated film makers of our time. His last directorial Serious Men got Emmy and his films Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin and Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi were cult. Today his latest offering Afwaah released in cinemas starring Nawazuddin and Bhumi Pednekar.
Soon after Rahab Ahmad (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) — a US-returned professional trying to do his bit for the homeland — switches the radio channel to avoid a political talk and listens to jazz as he drives to a high-profile literature festival where his wife’s book is being released, a political clash breaks out a neighbouring area. During the political march of Vicky Singh (Sumeet Vyas), which is meant to be a show of strength before the elections, a communal clash erupts. The visuals of the clash that suggest Singh’s involvement in it airs on loop on television. In no time, we see a man pleading for his life and Singh’s loyal aide Chandan’s (Sharib Hashmi) role in the killing of a Muslim butcher go viral. This upsets his fiance Nivi (Bhumi Pednekar), daughter of a former political stalwart.
From then on, Afwaah plays out like a tight political thriller. The whole situation spirals out of control when the paths of Rahab and Nivi cross. Nivi is running away from home and her impending wedding. Rahab comes to her aid when Singh’s henchmen try to take her back home. A new-age political advisor, armed with the expertise to make memes and viral videos, tries to salvage Singh’s reputation and assuage his ego. The smug meme-maker manipulates the visuals to suggest that Nivi and Rahab are lovers. The video, featuring ‘#lovejihad’, is first of the several manipulative and provocative videos that are unleashed into the vast world of internet consumers so that Singh can stay ahead in the game. This affects multiple lives, stirs mob fury and leads to violence.
Nawazuddin is first rate and grasps attention in every frame. This is his probably best work in last few years, probably after Serious Men. Bhumi is dependable and is decent in her portrayal. Sumeet Vyas is impressive and delivers a rare good performance after some forgettable outings. Sharib Hashmi is average.
The writers — Sudhir Mishra, Nisarg Mehta and Shiva Bajpai — show their apt understanding of the contemporary world. They bring nuance to the storytelling and keep the characters layered. The movie doesn’t make any direct reference to real incidents. However, there are several powerful scenes that are chilling reminders of true cases where vigilante violence was triggered by unverified news and rumours. The movie alludes to cases of lynching over suspected carrying of beef, pitting one community against another and spreading hateful messges. The first scene after the interval where students are shown taking shelter in a library, is a grim reminder of the December 15, 2019 incident of police attacking students in the Jamia Millia Islamia library.
Film is very well shot and looks grim. Background score to editing, all seem crafty and apt. Only departments which lacks quality will be art design. Direction by Sudhir Mishra is first rate and it’s refreshing to see him still intact his class of film making.
Film’s best quality is its intention which is never extreme or biased. Also technically not only film is sound but keeps you glued into the world of deception, politics and misinformation. This is another important film to watch in today’s time.
But sadly, this film will find very few takers and will struggle at box office.
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Box Office Rating: 0.5/5
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