AMU (Shonali Bose). 102 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (February 16). For venues and times, see Movies, page 78. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Amu , the first feature by Shonali Bose , deals with the human aftermath of the 1984 Indian riots, when more than 5,000 Sikhs were killed following Indira Gandhi's assassination.
Kaju ( Konkona Sen Sharma ), an Indo-American recent UCLA grad, visits New Delhi for the first time since she left at age three. Lugging a camcorder, she's enjoying spending time with her middle-class extended family and her cousin's university friends, but she's mysteriously drawn to the city's slums.
When she overhears talk there about the 1984 killings, she starts to probe this hidden chapter in India's history that could reveal answers about her own personal history as well. She was born in the slums and adopted at three, but who were her birth parents? Why won't anyone talk about the massacres? What's her adoptive mother hiding?
Bose has directed a couple of narrative shorts and a well-known doc (Lifting The Veil), but it's obvious this is her first feature. The acting and characterizations are uneven, a few scenes are awkwardly staged (including one in which Kaju and her mom dance and discuss politics), and several secondary storylines aren't fully developed.
But despite these shortcomings -- and the touch of sentimental melodrama in the final reel -- the film explores a little-represented period in recent history with sincerity and commitment.