Rajeev Masand

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Masand’s Verdict: Aamir, a tight thriller

Rajeev Masand Reviews

  Seldom have I seen as confident and competent a first-film as Aamir. It’s a tight little thriller that sucks you into its drama less than five minutes into the film and keeps you hooked till the end credits roll.

Television’s wonder-boy Rajeev Khandelwal stars as Aamir, a Muslim doctor returning to Mumbai after a stint in the UK, who finds his life turned upside down from the moment he steps out of the airport. A stranger slips him a mobile phone and a voice at the other end threatens to kill his family if he doesn’t follow instructions. From confusion, to shock, to fear, to anger, Aamir goes through all the motions as he follows the voice that leads him in and out of Mumbai’s impoverished neighborhoods to have his nose rubbed in the stink and the poverty of the life he abandoned for the comforts of the West. As the voice on the phone leads him through a series of increasingly dangerous errands, it becomes clear what the caller’s agenda is. In one last fateful instruction, Aamir is given the grim choice of carrying out a terrorist act or losing his family forever.

Skillfully directed by debutant Rajkumar Gupta from a story that sounds suspiciously similar to that of the Filipino film Cavite, Aamir works because it’s filmed documentary-style, creating a breathless, urgent tempo, transporting the audience out there where the action is, side-by-side with the protagonist.

The film’s only weak link, is the absence of any convincing explanation why Aamir and not anyone else in similar conditions was singled out for this operation. In fact, you’ll find that little detail is satisfactorily handled in Cavite where there’s a very specific back-story behind the selection of that particular protagonist. Also despite its running time of only 90 minutes, Aamir does, in a few places, tend to get repetitive and loose. But for the most part the film moves at a brisk pace, never really deviating from its thriller format.

The success and the impact of a film of this nature depends greatly on the credibility and the performance of its protagonist who occupies virtually every frame of the film from start to finish. In Rajeev Khandelwal, the filmmakers have found the perfect man for the job. Uninhibited, spontaneous and blessed with unmistakable presence, Khandelwal holds the screen like a seasoned artist. Using his face as a canvas to display emotions, he emerges the biggest strength of this little film.

More relevant to an Indian audience than Phone Booth or Cellular, two popular Hollywood films with a similar premise, Aamir has a moral core that will no doubt resonate with discerning viewers.

I’m going to go with three out of five and a thumbs up for Aamir, it’s a remarkable film that you mustn’t miss if you’re tired of all the mindless entertainment that’s hurled at you week after week at the movies. And Rajkumar Gupta is a director to look out for.

Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)

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