- Amu (2005) movie review: The unflinching depiction of the blood-soaked, government-condoned anti-Sikh Delhi Riots following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in fall 1984 forms the harrowing core of Shonali Bose’s well-intentioned but only partially satisfying drama intertwining the personal and political realms.
Amu movie review: Unflinching depiction of 1984 anti-Sikh Delhi Riots partly redeem family + political drama
In key points reminiscent of Luis Puenzo’s 1985 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner The Official Story, Shonali Bose’s Amu traces the path to self-discovery of a young Indian-American woman who, while visiting relatives in Delhi, unearths the politically charged truth about her adoption.
Filled with good intentions and righteous outrage, Amu is the sort of socially conscious work one wants to like. Unfortunately, that is not quite the same thing as actually liking it, as Bose’s drama suffers from serious narrative, direction, and acting issues – one crucial shortcoming being leading lady Konkona Sen Sharma (daughter of veteran actress and sometime director Aparna Sen), who is unable to convey the inner complexities of the titular character’s predicament.
Yet, despite its not insignificant flaws Amu is worth a look thanks to the screenwriter-director’s treatment of the film’s still contentious political subject. That, in fact, is what sets it apart from other cinematic efforts that mix the personal and political realms.
Political events more engrossing than family conflicts
Generally, audience-friendly political movies fail to make their message clear, diluting it in the personal drama with which viewers are expected to more easily empathize. Amu, however, works the other way around; its personal angle is less compelling than its political one.
In fact, the movie’s dramatic highlight is not the young woman’s eventual awareness of her “identity” or how she reacts to it, but the sequence depicting the horrors of the 1984 anti-Sikh Delhi Riots that resulted in about 3,000 Sikhs dead at the hands of Hindu mobs in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by two Sikh bodyguards in October of that year.
Filmmaker lambastes Indian government & George W. Bush
Another highlight at the AFI FEST screening of Shonali Bose’s political drama took place after the final credits.
That was when the impassioned filmmaker appeared onstage for a Q&A session, during which she lambasted Indian rulers of the last 20 years who have willfully failed to prosecute the anti-Sikh Delhi massacre orchestrators, among them state and local leaders.
While condemning state-sponsored terrorism, Bose also had some – widely applauded – harsh words for U.S. President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
Direction & Screenplay: Shonali Bose.
Cast: Konkona Sen Sharma. Yashpal Sharma. Brinda Karat. Ankur Khanna. Chaiti Ghosh. Aparna Roy.
“Amu Movie (2005) Review” endnotes
Konkona Sen Sharma Amu movie image: Jonai Productions.
“Amu: Family Connection to Bloody Anti-Sikh Delhi Riots” last updated in September 2021.