Spoiler Alert! — The rest of this article has spoilers. I would highly recommend watching the movie before reading on.
Aamis, literally translates to Meat in Assamese. Aamis is the title of an Assamese movie written and directed by Bhaskar Hazarika.
Nirmali is a doctor and a lonely wife and a mother of a young kid. Her husband is often out of town on work. She lives the quiet life and is busy between her clinical practise and taking care of her kid.
Sumon is a PhD student specializing on the topic of meat-eating cultures in the North-East of India.
They meet by accident when Sumon’s friend falls sick due to eating meat. Sumon asks Nirmali who is a doctor to treat his friend. In this encounter, Sumon tells Nirmali about the Meat Club.
Sumon and friends call their small group the Meat Club. The central theme, as the name indicates, involves gathering with friends and enjoying eating meat. They cook the food themselves and take great pains to prepare it right using exotic meats and exotic combinations of meat, different methods of cooking etc.
Nirmali’s interest is peaked by the Meat Club and as a fee for treating his friend asks him to share some of the food cooked by the Club.
After eating the first dish the seed of Ravening is planted inside Nirmali which only grows throughout the movie. Her desire flames slowly at first and Sumon feeds those desires by taking her out to unique restaurants and also by cooking delicious meats for her.
It is clear from the beginning that Sumon starts to have romantic feelings for Nirmali. The effort and care he puts into the preparation of the food that he regularly prepares for Nirmali is an expression of his love for her.
Sumon suffers the between his desire and love for her and the taboo of infidelity. In the throes of these pressures he has a dream or a vision of sorts where he visualizes himself being inside of her, inside her body. He feels joy and satisfaction in this state.
He realizes that the solution to cure this yearning without infidelity is through offering himself to her. Or, more accurately, offering his meat to her!
The Flames of Ravening
Raven — To devour voraciously
Nirmali consumes the first dish that was prepared using Sumon’s flesh unknowingly but once he discloses it to her she is overcome by extreme guilt among other feelings. But quickly that final taboo is broken and she lusts for more and more of his meat and Sumon obliges.
At one point she cooks her own meat and offers it to him and surprisingly Sumon is disgusted by it.
As this escalates Nirmali becomes aware that she has a psychological issue and acknowledges her descent into a deranged state of lust for flesh. This culminates in the quest for more human meat and forces Sumon to seek out a random rickshaw puller to kill and butcher him for meat.
Sumon gets caught in the act and through him Nirmali is also apprehended by the police. This whole affair gets a sensationalist media coverage.
Before talking about the ending it makes sense to talk about some of the topics that can help better understand the reason behind the sequence of events.
Tale of Three Taboos
The story of Aamis is powerful in its impact on the viewer due to the theme of taboos that are portrayed in the movie. The effect is deeper and more psychological as these taboos are subtle and there are no explicit gore or sexual scenes in the movie.
Meat eating is a taboo in the Indian society in general. The origin of this culture could be the Jain and Buddhist traditions which once ruled the entire subcontinent for several centuries. It is seen as being filthy and is associated with a habit of the lower caste people.
Even if there is no enforcement, people refrain from eating meat out in the open. It is usually not served in large gatherings like weddings or other social events. (There are exceptions of course like in Islamic and few other communities)
Until the advent of the supermarket, going to the butcher shop was a great taboo. I remember when my neighbour used to go out to buy mutton, he used to lie about it. But, the black plastic wrapping was a dead give-away.
The North-east of India has always been more open towards consuming meat. In Fact, they were one of the few regions that protested against the Beef-ban of the central government of India in recent years.
I digress, but, the celebration of eating meat with such indulgence is a sort of a taboo within the Indian context. This has been portrayed in the movie in an effortless manner. This casual nature adds spice (pun intended) to the drama.
Nirmali is a married woman and infidelity is a taboo and/or a crime in most cultures of the world. India is no different, but there is an extra layer to this. Indian society values marriage as a corner-stone of the society. This is evidenced by one of the lowest divorce rates in the world.
In this context infidelity is seen as an extra-extra taboo and it is quite evident that the protagonists are sensitive to this.
Aamis — intermingles these two taboos and layers Cannibalism on top of it. In the modern age, Cannibalism is a criminal offense all over the world. There are a few tribes that may indulge in this practice but these are extreme exceptions.
Surprisingly, India does have and still has a relationship with cannibalism. Even to this day a sect of Shiva worshipers — the Aghoris, are said to consume the flesh of the dead. A few videos have surfaced in the social media in recent times adding credence to this.
The addition of Cannibalism into their spree becomes the final taboo that leads to the eventual capture of Nirmali and Sumon.
Carnal — of the flesh.
Across human society sex and eating have a shared vocabulary. The reason could be much more deeper, even primordial. In the animal kingdom there are species where the male is consumed by the female as part of the intercourse.
The word carnal, which means flesh is often used to describe sexual topics as in Carnal love, Carnal desire etc.
In the heat of passion several words and phrases are surprisingly ambiguous with eating. For example — “Juicy”, “Thick”, “I will eat you”, “Deep inside you”, “Suck me”, “Swallow it”, “Lick there”, “Feed you”, “Milk me” etc.
Even the oldest profession is often referred to as the Flesh trade.
The First touch in the End
In the movie the Carnal love or lust for flesh surfaces quite literally through the act of ravening each other’s flesh. In a society full of taboos, Sumon chose this means to express his carnal love for Nirmali and she reciprocates in kind.
In the ending sequence, after they are caught and get a chance to stand next to each other they touch each other for the first time by lightly holding hands.
This is the first time that they ever touch each other. It seems like they dropped the final veil and accepted the simple and direct sexual nature of their desire for each other.
In conclusion, this is one of the few movies in the recent past that has made me think about it after watching it. I believe it will join the ranks of cult-classics. Note: All images are copyrights of the creators, used here for the purpose of review only.