Independent Hindi Film director Onir is back with “I AM”, a feature consisting of 4 short films, each tackling important social issues. Known for the way he tactfully handles sensitive issues, Onir started in 2005 with “My Brother Nikhil”, a film that portrayed the lack of AIDS awareness in India in the 90’s (when the Goa Public Health Act gave the government the right to isolate HIV positive people from the rest of society). Now, this talented director has joined forces with actor/producer Sanjay Suri to create “I AM”; a feature made up of four stories, with the common thread being that the lead character in each is fighting to regain control of their own lives after circumstances devastate them.
Uniquely, the finances for this production have been provided by over 400 people from all over the globe via various social networks. People who donated could choose to invest in the story of their choice, or in all four, and thus become a “Co-owner” of the film. Several of the film’s cast and crew, including Juhi Chawla, Anurag Basu and Anurag Kashyap did not take a fee for the roles.
The first of the four – “I AM Abhimanyu”, is about a film director (Sanjay Suri) who is struggling to deal with the psychological scars that remain as a result of sexual abuse when he was younger. The story is based on the experiences of fashion designer Ganesh Nallari, and BlogActivist Harish Iyer who are both survivors of sexual abuse from people they knew. Anurag Kashyap, Radhika Apte, and Shernaz Patel, amongst others, also star in this.
“I AM Omar” is inspired by the experiences collated from people on the Gay Bombay network. Starring Rahul Bose, Arjun Mathur, Abhimanyu Singh and Mukesh Sawlani, “I AM Omar” deals with the discrimination gay people face in the city of Mumbai, where Article 377 of the penal code says that police are allowed to strip gay men of their civil rights and wealth, and in turn, of their own pride.
“I AM Afia”, starring Nandita Das, Purab Kohli, Anurag Basu and Manav Kaul, deals with sperm donation. The concept of a single woman wanting a child is practically unheard of, but Afia, who feels she is racing against her biological clock, decides to embark on a quest to find a sperm donor for the perfect child – a decision that rattles the social beliefs of many around her.
Finally there is “I AM Megha”, based on the Kashmiri Pandits of the 80’s who were forced to leave their own country and live as refugees. It tells the tale of Megha (Juhi Chawla) who returns home after almost 20 years of exile, where she meets long-lost friend Rubina (Manisha Koirala) who struggles to reiterate the point that she was not responsible for evicting Megha’s family from their own land.
Forbes India has listed “I AM” as a movie to look forward to in 2011. Though the film is going on general release soon, it has already done its rounds at international film festivals – and won several awards in 2010. Onir’s “I AM” won the Endangered Award for Human Rights in New York, the Audience Choice Award at the River-to-River Film Festival in Florence, the Best Asian Film award at NETPAC by IFFK, as well as receiving Special Jury Mention at the IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala).
Citing itself as being about "People with fractured lives, held together by unbroken dreams", “I AM” is sure to be a must-watch film that has already received critical acclaim all over the world.