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Movie Review | Afwaah: When hate is in the air


Published on: May 6, 2023 | Updated on: May 6, 2023

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‘Aaj yeh basant thoda bawla hai’ is a lyrical complaint of a polity fractured. Hovering around the spring gone wrong or steadily going wrong, Sudhir Mishra gives you yet another thought-provoking film.

This cinematic documentation of the dangerous times we live in and slowly but steadily takes its shortcomings as an integral part of our lives and unwittingly even its perpetrators, is clinically projected as a social drama with a high emotive quotient.

Even the fire surrounding the title ‘Afwaah’ is surely symbolic of a society with multiple weaknesses begging to be exploited by rumours and gyan from the self-appointed gyanis aplenty on social media - an epidemic we are not fighting but succumbing to.

In the heartland of the country in Sawalpur it is election time. The candidate Vicky Singh (Sumeet Vyas) is ready with every possible trick in the book. A well-orchestrated attack leads to the killing of a member of the minority community and lo and behold the public is sitting ducks.

Even as the incident goes public, the rage picks up and the frenzy is for all to absorb in the name of politics. His fiancé Nivi (Bhumi Pednekar) sees the world differently and begins to discern the conspiracy and refuses to be a silent witness to the ghatbandan politics dictated by her father Gyan Singh and played out by her fiancé.

Rahab Ahmad (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a foreign returned yuppy is on a road trip to Nehagarh Fort Hotel where his wife is busy with the release of her book. Hate is in the air and it is to be seen to be believed that there is a gullible polity willing to be swayed by allegations of love jihad.

It is a chance meeting on the violent streets of Sawalpur that Rahab and Nivi meet initially with Rahab playing the saviour when the latter is attacked by Vicky’s cronies. Soon it is a polarised battle and it is a no-holds-bar for all. The bigotry is visible as is the polarisation.

Assisting Vicky Singh are his henchmen Chandan (Sharib Hashmi) and Rocky (Rockey Raina). The underbelly of crime unfortunately knows no kin at the central level and those who mount the tiger have to get off at some stage.

Chandan who stars in the planning of the carnage and the killing of a member of the minority community is seen as too hot to handle and is now the target. A corrupt police officer is brought in when Sandeep Tomar (Sumit Kaul) is empowered to kill at the command of the powerful Vicky Singh. Tomar is also seen having an exploitative relationship with a lady constable TJ Bhanu (Riya Rathod).

In this dark world, the underbelly is filled with hate and venom. It is a place of hate, polarisation, violence, intolerance, bigotry and labelling. Here things move thick and fast and it is not long before friends become foes and strangers are the ones who help.

It is also a world where even the trustworthy can become victims of intrigue and self-interest. Dirty politics is even clumsier and the ‘cesspool’ is visible if only you are willing to see and discern.

At one level while Mishra with his team of dialogue writers Nisarg Mehta and Shiva Bajpai tells deftly the tale of Nivi and Rahab on the run from the frenzied mob, on the other hand, he even more importantly pushes in his noted take on which side of the political drama he is and does so very clearly and carefully.

For followers of his cinema, we know where his ideology springs from. Remember, his ‘Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi’. He is, however, making a film in a different India now than he was in with ‘Hazaron…’

The lines are sharper and the divide stronger.

When hate and death reign the streets of Sawalpur and the entire polity is a victim to the ingenuity of an opinion driver on social media the narrative is no longer just a story of the protagonists on the run.

Here a youth icon overnight evolves into a saviour of our ‘dharm’ and ‘rivaaz’. He becomes the protector and guardian of our culture and faith. The mess the characters land in is the ones created by the naïve or the stupid who are willing to be pawns in the drama of politics that has new bright hues of intolerance and alternate truths.

As the guy and gal are on the run we have parallel happenings of lust, distrust, and politics (bad politics) leading to a finale that is well in keeping with the general narrative and not an overdrawn, loud one.

Interestingly, the dialogues stand out and often mirror the times and prejudices that have a vice-like hold on our societal fabric.

Addressing the users of social media, Nivi tells the habitual forward persons: "Chill. Don’t think. Just forward." One fool spreads gyan to another and then the rumour is spread - the anatomy of our knowledge base is delineated.

Sudhir Mishra ends the story with a lorry where the consignment is let loose - a whole set of captured donkeys.

Now wait.

While everyone in the cast with a role worth mentioning deliver, special mention must be made of Riya Rathod for her powerful performance and of Sumit Kaul as the corrupt police officer.

Also, very steady and underplayed performance from Rockey Raina needs a mention.

Nawaz has the knack of staying within the role and peaking at the right time. He does not overstate even for a second. A class act.

Bhumi Pednekar is now making a habit by choosing meaningful roles. She shines.

At a time when we celebrated ‘Pathaan’, we let go ‘Bheed’. Now in the din and dust of ‘PS2’, this compelling film will lose the race at the Box Office. We will regret to have ignored good cinema. ‘Afwaah’ is a must-see.


Film: Afwaah

Director: Sudhir Mishra

Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Sumeet Vyas