It is not difficult to understand why this film was repeatedly refused a censor certification in India. In Raj Amit Kumar's range of vision, life is perpetually short, brutal and unbearable. The cultural-religious intolerance that we face nowadays in every walk of life and every phase trails its way out into the "progressive" West.
Ironically, the film -- out now on Netflix -- plays a ‘Trump' card by showing exactly what the American President claims: that the Islamic radicalisation of US is now a reality. In the film, a liberal Islamic scholar (played with intuitive brilliance by Victor Banerjee) and his hapless assistant are kidnapped in New York by an uncompromising terrorist, played with unnerving ruthlessness by Bhanu Uday who proceeds to kill the Professor bit by bit.
The terrorist's torture of the professor is among the most harrowing illustrations of visual violence we will see in modern cinema. While exposing the brutality of a wounded civilisation, the director doesn't flinch from exposing the wounds and blood that tear across the agonised destiny of modern mankind.
The graphic gruesome violence of the Victor Banerjee episode, nailed to a sense of urgent exposition by the brilliant camerawork (Hari Nair) and a sound design that doesn't spare us any of the howls and moans of unbearable pain, will get to you, as it is meant to.
The narrative corners us into a sense of shuddering participation in the rites of violence. This is even more true in the Delhi story where a young lesbian daughter (Preeti Gupta) and her partner (Bhavani Lee) is subjected to the most unthinkable torture and shame by her bigoted father (Adil Hussain, stunning in his dark evil avatar).
Adil is representative of that faceless ‘majority' which thinks of itself as upholders of Indian culture. When the signs of cultural rebellion are visible in his own home, the actor's character, significantly a Delhi policeman, takes the bull by the horns.
Honour as defined by Adil's law enforcer's character, is no different from the way it is defined in New York by the Islamic terrorist. Violence is the end result of all bigotry. The blood-curdling sounds of pain of the aged professor as hammers and saws are used on him to break his mind and body, merge into cries of pain of the policeman's daughter in Delhi who is gang raped in lock-up with her father's active consent to "normalise" her sexual preference.
"Unfreedom" is not an easy film to sit through. It offers no respite from the relentless violence, sexual, physical and emotional, as one bullying section of society takes it upon itself to teach the other "tolerant" section a lesson or two in radicalisation. The film presumes violence to be the determining tool of socio-cultural assertion.
And it is not too far off the mark.
Unfreedom Movie Rating: 3/5
Subhash K Jha