Is this Indian film a unique solution to the issue of terrorism?

Azamgarh’ shows the beginning of the twenty-first century when India, America, Europe and others were plagued by terrorist attacks.

By Sushma Shandilya

Kamlesh K. Mishra is a National Award winning Writer, Producer-Director for Best Documentary and Short Films, who has written and directed his first ninety minute feature film ‘Azamgarh’.

The film stars Pankaj Tripathi along with debutant Anuj Sharma, Amita Walia, Ramji Bali, Susan Brar and others.

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‘Azamgarh’ shows the beginning of the twenty-first century when India, America, Europe and others were plagued by terrorist attacks.

Kamlesh Mishra is a director with a balanced mindset and extremely sensitive nature, so has directed this film in his unique style.

‘Azamgarh’ in Uttar Pradesh was linked with the terror attacks so that city is placed at the center of the story.

The film’s story is based on those true events in which Azamgarh boys were involved in the Batla house encounter. When interrogated, they revealed how they were brainwashed to become terrorists.

Unlike many films made on terrorism, the director has neither shown nonessential romance nor unnecessary bloodshed in this film.

The film shows an emotional story of a mother-son from a lower-middle-class family.

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‘Azamgarh’ has been shot at Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, Varanasi, Aligarh and real locations of Delhi. This film was shot when Pankaj Tripathi and Kamlesh Mishra had begun their cinematic journey, hence the cities depicted in the film had a different atmosphere then. The realistic touch in the film shows that the film is made with a limited budget.

Pankaj Tripathi

Brilliant actor Pankaj Tripathi’s unmatched, unique talent needs no introduction. In ‘Azamgarh’, he has played a vicious Maulvi ‘Ashraf’, who encourages and helps the brilliant youths, coming to big cities for higher education. But in fact, he brainwashes young, innocent muslim boys who are unaware of the wicked world. He applies psychological and emotional pressure on them and prepares them to sacrifice themselves on the path of Jihad. In the film, few dialogues by Pankaj Tripathi and Anuj Sharma are quite impressive.

Anuj Sharma

In ‘Azamgarh’, debutant actor Anuj Sharma has played a brilliant student ‘Aamir’ and Amita Walia has played his widowed mother.

In the beginning of the film, a thrilled ‘Aamir’ comes running to his mother to share the good news that he has topped in class XII, in the entire state. Despite the best result, a Hindu boy from his locality taunts ‘Aamir’ that even after getting higher education, he will become a terrorist. He further says that previously ‘Azamgarh’ had produced great scholars like ‘Rahul Sankrityayan, Ayodhya Singh Upadhyay ‘Hariaudh’, Shibli Nomani, Kaifi Azmi’ but now is producing terrorists.

Amita Walia

Aamir’s mother sends him to Aligarh for higher studies despite limited resources. ‘Aamir’ had no idea what a decisive turn his life would take in Aligarh. The boy’s hurting words keep haunting Aamir’s mind and to prove him wrong, he joins a terrorist organization and in the end answers in an unimaginable way.

Apart from the first scene, Aamir’s silence throughout the film is disconcerting, making it difficult to predict what his next move will be. Rather than dialogues, ‘Anuj Sharma’ has acted better with his expressive eyes. By making new actors act well, Kamlesh Mishra has shown his skillful directorial ability.

Kamlesh Mishra had to hide the identity of real characters as the story is based on true events. The sensitivity of the subject must have made it difficult for him to decide on some issues. He made a wise decision by not showing unnecessary bomb blasts in the film. The story is neither suspenseful nor boring so it makes the audience curious throughout the film.

WATCH Video: Kamlesh Mishra speaks to Pallavi Jain about the film ‘Azamgarh’.

The breaking news of the terrorists’ incidents shown in between, disturb the story’s rhythm. Kamlesh Mishra has shown Ravana’s effigy being burnt and the whole group of terrorists being destroyed at the same time. Showing both scenes in such a symbolic manner is undoubtedly a remarkable imagination and accolades must be bestowed on him for this. Those expecting entertainment from ‘Azamgarh’ will be disappointed because this serious film conveys a clear message that the country’s love and respect should be above every community and religion and if needed, lives must be sacrificed for the country’s security.

Kamlesh Mishra is basically a documentary maker so unknowingly the documentary effect shows in the film. Due to lack of clarity in the dialogue delivery, it’s difficult listening to them in some scenes. The background music would have given pace to the story, if it had been better. The lyrics of the song ‘Naare, Angare’ penned by Kamlesh Mishra are too good. Pratap Somvanshi has written the soulful, soothing qawwali ‘Kiski Laagi Nazar’ which is shot at the dargah. On the pretext of the demand of the scene, film makers often make the hero-heroine dance. Kamlesh Mishra has avoided such experiments in ‘Azamgarh’, which reflects his serious nature and so is praiseworthy. 

‘Azamgarh’ was passed by the censor in 2019 and was given the censor certificate of Urdu. With dialogues in simple Urdu, it is a clean film, worth watching. In 2020, it could not be released in theaters due to the covid epidemic and few controversies. Finally on 28th April, 2023 ‘Azamgarh’ was released on a new OTT app ‘Mask TV’.

Contributing Author: Sushma ‘Shandilya’ is a well-known Hindi poet and writer based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Her short stories, articles and plays have been published in leading Indian publications. Sushma ‘Shandilya’ writes on various contemporary issues including themes around women empowerment. She is also a yoga teacher.

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