'Afwaah': “What if the monster chasing you is a rumour?” asks Sudhir Mishra

"Afwah highlights contemporary issues, and yet there is core of universality in the storytelling in the structuring where characters are caught in a situation created by a rumour,” says Mishra

A publicity poster for Afwaah, directed by Sudhir Mishra (Photo: IMDb)
A publicity poster for Afwaah, directed by Sudhir Mishra (Photo: IMDb)

Subhash K Jha

Afwaah is the ballsy new thriller from longevous auteur of Indian cinema Sudhir Mishra. It looks like one of the most engaging works of Mishra's prolific career.

"It is in the space of my Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, which came [out] 25 years ago. In Afwaah, we have moved on," says Mishra, as he awaits audience verdicts on May 5. "It highlights contemporary issues, and yet there is [a] core of universality in the storytelling, in the structuring, where characters are caught in a situation created by a rumour."

“I hope [viewers] will like it. I think they will like it," said Mishra. "It is a thriller with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It is a time-bound story about three [main characters], played by Bhumi Pednekar, Sumeet Vyas and Nawazuddin  Siddiqui, trapped in a crisis which is not of their making. There is another plot thread about a [character] played by Sharib Hashmi who follows his master blindly," reveals Mishra.

So is Afwaah as strong a political film as some of Mishra's earlier films like Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Dharavi? "I wouldn't say so," says Mishra, "though one of the protagonists is a politician. But the web of deceit that forms the plot has nothing to do with politics. Rumour is used as [a] metaphor in Afwaah. Today, in the era of social media, a rumour can spread like wildfire. It can destroy people's reputations. It destroyed Shiney Ahuja's career!"

Mishra gives full marks to the actors for making Afwaah the powerful thriller that it is. "I’ve worked with Nawaz before," he says, "I know what he is capable of. But this was my first time with Bhumi Pednekar and I was surprised by how well-prepared she comes on the set. It's not just about, 'Sudhir-sir, I am so happy to work with you.' She actually asks the right questions during shooting. I welcome [actors who ask questions]. I worked with Shabana Azmi [in Dharavi]—she was constantly questioning. It shows the actor's involvement in the project."

What should the audience expect from him this time, though? "A rollercoaster ride," the director says, "The thriller element was so intrinsic to the plot, I only needed to focus on telling my story the way it was written."

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