Afwaah pretends to be what it is not!

Sumit Vyas in Afwaah. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Over the last decade or so, there has been a prevalent paranoia in Indian cinema and society about the country turning demoniacally communal. Instigated by gullible, self-proclaimed and holier-than-thou “protectors” of India and even more so by vested interests, especially self-, pelf- and power-seeking politicians, a a picture is painted of communalism being rampant in India despite the obvious decrease in communal riots and upheavals. The film based on stray incidents of the kind that would always happen at intervals, usually with political patronage.

These last 10 years have thus sprung up a list of “activists” for this cause who masquerade as creative artistes armed with a will to change India for the better, this in a period when the nation’s fabric has actually improved for the better in almost all aspects! This motley crowd of makers have the same intention as the art filmmakers of yore who fleeced artistes to work for peanuts while they themselves gained materially in hordes as well as in terms of reputation of being avant-garde visionary filmmakers: to show themselves as fearless spokesmen for societal change.

Sadly, even today, this money-making exercise still continues at financiers’ expense, while they fully know that the people steadfastly ignore and decimate their pretence at sacrosanct societal reforms. After all, the average Indian lives life and sees it as it is, not with tinted glasses or kinky prisms!

Afwaah is but the latest in this lot of movies that highlight an old, weather-beaten India in which the kind of individuals and incidents happening were so common that everyone took them for granted and never did more than a token protest against atrocities. In the emerging nation, sans a divide and rule ethic, however, the people will see no sane reason to endorse something so dated, even if given a contemporary veneer.

Yes, there are examples of such retrograde people and happenings of the kind shown here, more, admittedly in the more conservative and even orthodox Northern belt, but to pretend that the entire nation is being mirrored in 2023 and the country is in “divisive” mood is simply not acceptable.

Today’s educated and tech-savvy populace may be masters in digital frauds and still be susceptible to patriarchal excesses and gender discrimination, but they will not be taken in by such distorted “mirrors”. After all, even in 2008, a nationalistic A Wednesday! was a whopper hit.

Anubhav Sinha, the man behind the exceptional espionage drama, Dus and the sincere and sensitive Mulk, seems to be turning totally to wrong chapters of late, and along with Sudhir Mishra, a self-styled reformist, when reforms, where needed today, need to be addressed differently.

As a thriller sans this motivated approach, Afwaah could have worked as a passable political drama, but the obvious warped intent mars any scope it might have had. We have a suave and ruthless yet more than a shade confused politician Vicky (Sumit Vyas going histrionic places again), his rebellious and strongly idealistic fiancée, Nivedita (Bhumi Pednekar) and the politician’s star-crossed foot soldier, Chandan (Sharib Hashmi), each caught in a vortex of destruction, deceit and despair.

Literally trapped in their midst is a foreign-returned simpleton, Rahab Ahmed (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) from the minority community, traveling to a spot in Rajasthan where his wife (Eisha Chopra) is having a book release at a LitFest where an extravaganza of dance and music is being performed!

Bullets are widely splayed through the film and so are invectives (signs of censors becoming liberal when the souls behind this film are claiming that India is becoming more rigid!!), and dirty politics are played out as well, with a needless (for the story) sex scene shown between a corrupt cop (Sumit Kaul) and his equally morally-ambiguous colleague (TJ Bhanu).

The end comes after not just too stretched a runtime but also follows when several innocent lives are destroyed, with the woman who protested against her fiancé about his communal tendencies proving the most dangerous!

The film has decent performances from the lead cast, and after Sumit Vyas, I would single out Sharib Hashmi for a stirring turn. Bhumi Pednekar is a mix of all her performances from the past, with nothing precisely new or powerful. TJ Bhanu scores as the lady cop and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as the wrong man in the wrong place, is his usual self—for which, like artistes from his school of cinema, he will doubtlessly be appreciated in heaps.

Oh yes, I forgot! The film is titled Afwaah, which means a rumor. It is calculatedly presented as a story that actually looks at a pertinent fact—the evils of rumors, fueled by today’s all-pervasive social media. After all, the Rahab-Nivedita escapade is painted, for political gains, as that of a Muslim kidnapping a Hindu girl through a viral video! And so the question of ‘Love jihad’ comes in. Under the guise of a valid point (the evil potential of social media), we once again get a look at communalism, which the film claims is rampant to insane, murderous lengths today.

Sadly, the film is everything it pretends not to be. It could have well been called Love Jihad. And we do not know what its foreign DOP (Colombian Mauricio Vidal) and composer (Czech Karel Antonin) think of India today. Even more sadly, this team and their kind never tire of showing the country in a negative light. And the country never tires of dismissing what such wannabe reformists show as “reality”!

Rating: *1/2

Benares Media Works & T-Series Films present Afwaah Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishen Kumar & Anubhav Sinha  Directed by: Sudhir Mishra  Written by: Sudhir Mishra, Nisarg Mehta, Apoorva Dhar Badgaiyaan & Shiva Shankar Bajpai  Music: Shamir Tandon  Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bhumi Pednekar, Sumit Vyas, Sharib Hashmi, Sumit Kaul, T.J. Bhanu, Appurv Gupta, Eisha Chopra, Carl Zohan, Rockey Raina, Kaviraj Laique & others



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