In the story I AM Megha, in Onir’s 4-episode feature I Am, Juhi Chawla plays a Kashmiri pandit woman who journeys back to Kashmir and the trauma of forced migration that she had left behind.
Says Onir, “Juhi’s character is based on my friend Sanjay Suri’s experiences as a Kashmiri Pundit who had to leave his land. The story contains a lot of incidental sounds of militancy, radicalism and fundamentalism taken from recent documentaries on Kashmir.” Drama in real life never seemed more real.
Onir’s film has been passed with an A certificate with just two words being beeped out. Surprising considering there are scenes of explicit sexuality especially in the fourth story, I AM Omar, where one night a white-collar executive (Rahul Bose) and his gigolo-toyboy (Arjun Mathur) are accosted by a homophobic bullying cop (Abhimanyu Singh). The cop not only extorts money from the couple after he catches Bose and Mathur kissing, he forces Bose to perform oral sex on him to escape arrest.
This again, is based on the experience of a true-life gay. “I was going to put his name in the end-credits. But he recently got married and requested anonymity. This person’s experience is certainly not an isolated instance that I’ve used in the film to show how the gay community is targeted. We’ve innumerable instances of decent successful gay individuals being harassed and blackmailed by cops into providing sexual favours to escape attention. I was very clear that if I was doing another film about gay bonding I had to go into darker area than My Friend Nikhil.”
The first story in Onir’s 4-episode saga is I AM Afia about a woman Nandita Das who befriends her sperm donor Purab Kohli. Onir admits women who want to get impregnated through artificial insemination are not supposed to know their donors.
“But again I’ve based my story on the corrupt practices that prevail in our day-to-day activities. The doctor in film (played by filmmaker Anurag Basu) allows Nandita to meet her donor when she threatens to go to another fertility clinic,” says Onir.
I AM Afia is the most romantic of the four stories that comprise Onir’s film I AM. It has the maximum usage of background music and other mainstream devices. As the four stories progress they get darker.