'I Am' has travelled in film festivals for last many months and rightly so since at the core of it this movie has a shelf life beyond the theatrical release. Yes, it has seen a mainstream release for itself but then it is made strictly for the niche audience which can digest films that don't quite lend a comfortable outing and instead make you think along as the drama unfolds. The fact that the man at the hot seat, Onir, has kept the sensibility and the sensitivity of the narrative intact only makes 'I Am' a must watch for those looking at quality cinema that dares to tell different tales.
What strikes most about 'I Am' is that it carries a rich and polished look to it which is especially commendable since by no means is it a conventional commercial entertainer that are generally known to have a dependency on strong production values. Most of the scenes are filmed outdoors in locations across Kolkata, Kashmir, Bangalore and Mumbai which adds on to the visual appeal.
The beauty of 'I Am' lies in the fact that majority of the four stories in the narrative aren't stretched beyond the point. The best of the lot is the final story, the one involving Rahul Bose and Arjun Mathur, which begins as a love story of two men. There is a chuckle here or there and also a full-on shock appeal for the mainstream audience once the two share a lip lock. However it is all forgotten once Abhimanyu Singh (the cop) comes into picture. The sequence is truly shocking.
On the other hand despite it's serious theme, the story involving Nandita Das and Purab Kohli brings a smile on the face for most of it's 30 minutes duration. Purab's discomfort, the nurse asking him about the 'three days fast', his subsequent crush on Nandita - all of it does keep the proceedings light hearted. The ending is just apt too and non-flimy.
The story which is not as high-impact though is the one featuring Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala. Both actresses seem to be bogged down by the 'comeback bit' and it is perhaps due to the limited space (30 minutes) available to them which doesn't allow a rise in the character graph. The theme of both Hindus and Muslims losing their own share of happiness due to militancy in Kashmir is well intentioned but the result is neither hard hitting nor heart rendering.
The story featuring Sanjay Suri and Anurag Kashyap has it's moments of scary silences but thankfully Onir keeps the element of paedophilic overtures limited which doesn't make one overtly uncomfortable with what happens on screen. Of course at numerous junctures you are reminded of 'The Great Indian Butterfly' which was again about a youngster being confused about his sexuality. However the twist in the tale which is that of the boy here being a party to the proceedings does make the story different from many other child-abuse stories.
Music is just apt as well with each of the songs making a good impression as they play in the background. Performances by majority of actors is top notch with Nandita Das, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose and Abhimanyu Singh sharing the top honours.
Let's face it though, 'I Am' is not for that segment of audience that frequents theaters with a family to watch the likes of a 'Dabangg' or a 'Yamla Pagla Deewana' or a 'Band Baaja Baaraat'. This means that the feel-good factor is definitely out of question here as the film not just throws in some shocking visuals but also makes you constantly ponder over what would happen next and then also think about it long after the end credits start rolling.