When I was watching Fahim Irshad's film 'Aani Maani' during the recently held International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), the Rajya Sabha was witnessing an uproar over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill. Just two days after watching the death of its kebab-seller protagonist named Bhutto on screen, I had come across a video clip that showed two men who were shot dead in a protest conducted against the new version of the Citizenship Act in Assam.
Even the film buffs, who were roaming around talkies that were part of the IFFK circuit, staged protests against the CAA during its last day. 'Aani Maani' , a subtly narrated movie, won the best debut feature film by a director and the best Asian film in the 24th edition of IFFK. The 2019 film was screened thrice with house-full audiences under the competition category.
Watching the story set in the backdrop of beef ban and its aftereffects on the life a Muslim kebab-seller, unsettled the minds of the crowds gathered to watch 'Aani Maani' even sitting on the floor. After beef ban, Bhutto is compelled to shut down his beef kebab shop which was the only means of life to his family.
Considering the overall scenario in the country, the film is not just a story of a Muslim youth who is striving to lead a good familial life. ‘Go to Pakistan’ is not a just a dialogue one of the police officers is spitting out to Bhutto, but it highlights the growing religious intolerance in India, which becomes the undercurrent of the movie.
At least 44 people were killed across India in cow-related violence between 2015 and 2018, according to the Human Rights Watch. While mob lynchings and anxiety about new citizenship norms grip India, 'Aani Maani' brings out an overwhelming story of a minority family in 'New India'.
Director Fahim Irshad, 33, belongs to Uttar Pradesh. He is a graduate in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
He has lent the name of a game popular among children in his state. While playing 'Aani Maani' children turn around while reciting a popular rhyme.
(The opinions expressed are personal)