One of 2017’s most accomplished thrillers, ‘Sameer’ – a film inspired by the serial bombings in India– is replete with multi-layered plot narrations and irrefutably good performances. Made by a documentarian, the film pushes the viewer to change his/her perspective towards the idea of terrorism. (This review of Sameer does not contain spoilers.)
It’s troublesome when you can’t name a catastrophe. How do you identify it? Or communicate its arrival to people? What if the terror catches you unawares, coming from a place whence you least expect it? Will you helplessly panic while facing the new devastation in your neighbourhood, where you were loitering just a few minutes ago? What is the thin line that differentiates hooligans from terrorists? Be it riots, bombing, hijacking or any terrorist activity, these heinous acts create ripples in our economy, ecology, political setting and society in ways one can’t imagine. But they may not always appear in black robes. The horror exists in myriad forms, colours and designations, and that is what Dakxin Bajrange’s political thriller is about. More than the act, the film intelligently is shot from the POV of the viewer – the on-looker and pushes the audience to feel the power of perception which is the most underrated, but significant variable in the fight against terror.
Sameer is inspired by the various serial bombings that have shaken the country. It reflects on the communal disputes, the consequences of extremism and the outrageous stories of agony of the missing children of Gujarat, who were declared dead seven years after the riots.
Zeeshan Ayyub is Sameer, an engineering student who is turned into an undercover informer by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Gujarat, after he is mistakenly apprehended for involvement in a terrorist attack. Zeeshan who has made his presence felt as a solid supporting actor in various hit films like Raanjhana, Raees, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is in terrific form in his first outing as a lead. The actor’s onscreen dexterity progresses just as the plot gradually unravels. He makes you feel the antipathy that underpins the story, while you sit in your recliner gulping caramel popcorns (I do recommend caramel popcorns. The bitter revelations of the film are hard to gulp down without an external sweet supplement!). The thrilling suspense of the movie is felt like a rabbit hole that grows deeper and deeper, with stellar performances by Anjali Patil, who plays the role of journalist Alia Irade, and Subrat Dutta as the ATS Deputy Chief Desai. Prodigy child actor Shubham Bajrange, who plays the role of the ghetto kid Rocket, and community worker Monto, played by Alok Gagdekar, bring in elements of political satire through their remarkably stirring performances.
Writer Karan Vyas, has flawlessly stencilled layers within the plot, constructing traps that leave the audience in wonder about the society we’re living in. Director Dakxin Bajrange‘s background in Budhan Theatre – through which he has worked to eradicate stigmas about communities since more than 20 years now– is evident in the sequences of street plays in Sameer that expose societal issues. The shots have been angled uniquely; right from the mounting of a camera over Desai’s gun, to the capturing of blood and muck at a bomb site. There are instances where one can tell that the Director of Photography Gargey Trivedi has taken hints of inspiration from RGV Films. There is only a single song, ‘Mar Gaya’, which stirs up moments in the film with emotional drama, doing for the film what Indian Ocean’s ‘Bande’ did for Black Friday.
Sameer uses the city of Ahmedabad craftily to add a layer to the story being narrated. This is also one of the few films that is not just shot in Ahmedabad, but is also made by talent from Ahmedabad. The whole crew, except for the star cast, hails from the country’s only World Heritage City. Even most of the sequences are shot in the ghettos and bustling urban pockets of the city. The filmmakers may have faced differences with the Central Board of Film Certification, with the board having cropped out some scenes before the film’s release, but I don’t think that has diminished the tempo of the overall film or hampered the perception of the plot that Bajrange wishes to deliver.
Sameer works at many levels. It is a completely different perspective to the ‘terror act’ narrative. The most important aspect of a suspense film, is the ‘suspense’ itself; and Dakxin in his first full length feature outing, has crafted the narrative so well, that the shock and awe of the ‘suspense’ works brilliantly. The ambience of the film is gritty, dark and realistic, but it works to pull the audience into the narrative.
Sameer is a healthy addition to the recent upsurge of realism in Hindi cinema. The film is a worthy watch, and trust me, it will stay with you and your dinner table conversations. But make sure you aren’t exposed to spoilers before reaching the box office and grabbing your tickets.
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