At its heart, Aamis is a film about the different ways we express intimacy: the ways we discover little nuggets about ourselves and others through the food we choose to put in our mouths and in our plates.
“Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell.” Ratatouille catches us. In this “Food for Film” series, we select food movies/shows that make our mouths water and our souls richer.
“When I eat with you, I only want to eat meat,” Nirmali (Lima Das), an older married pediatrician, tells Suman (Arghadeep Baruah), a young doctoral student in friends (2019), the Assamese lyrical romantic horror film by Bhaskar Hazarika. “The rest is not even recorded,” she adds.
It’s a scene steeped in romantic longing, but at this point in the film, Nirmali and Suman are an unlikely couple – recent acquaintances who occupy worlds so diametrically opposed that they shouldn’t have crossed paths in the first place. But life isn’t a straight line, so they find each other because they both like to eat meat. Seeing no harm in eating together, Nirmali and Suman embarked on a culinary courtship across Guwahati – challenging the tense politics of moral policing and meat eating in a conservative society.
When I looked friends for the first time in 2019, I remember being captivated by Hazarika’s pointed examination of a society filled with unfulfilled and pent-up desires. At the time, the film struck me as intensely political, an expression of the perverse repercussions that arise when the carnal, carnivorous palates of an entire population are censored with impunity.
Over the past two years, since life has shrunk to the confines of our living rooms, I’ve revisited Friends (the title translates to “meat” and Voracious, its English title, refers to a hungry animal) several times. But each time, I find myself caught off guard by the incredible sweetness of this particular exchange when it is a small moment in a film with very big revelations. The film is still as urgent as it was three years ago, but I find myself more attuned to the lingering romanticism of the way it captures camaraderie through shared plates..
Right before Nirmali tells Suman how she feels about sharing a meal with him, we see the pair making their way through several meals. He gives her a taste of rabbit meat — a dish she admits she has never tasted — and the camera shines its lens on her plate: there are bamboo shoots and potatoes but her fork is well positioned. on the tender piece of meat. They eat fresh fish by the river in a makeshift stall. We watch her face light up in wonder as she tries to figure out how beautifully the quails pair with the banana blossoms as they eat a meal deep in a plantation. Suman responds by planning another meal – catfish with colocasia – when the couple are already in the middle of a meal, as if they were able to enjoy a meal all the more just because she was there. to witness it.
Meal after meal, Suman and Nirmali reveal their vulnerabilities without hesitation – their shared plates helping them develop a code of trust. This is exactly why at different points in the movie, it feels like Nirmali and Suman know everything about each other even though they know nothing about each other.
In Friends, hunger is like the path to intimacy, meaning that meaningful connections are forged on a full stomach.
I guess it’s because deep down, Friends is a film about the different ways we express intimacy: the ways we discover little nuggets about ourselves and others through the food we choose to put in our mouths and on our plates. It’s a film about opening up to people who expand our palates, a film that treats food not just as an exercise in sustenance but sees eating together as a romance; an intentional act imbued with connection, care and communication.
In the past two years I’ve been stuck at home, I’ve realized that some of my memorable meals from those years had less to do with what I ate than what I learned about person who ate next to me. me.
In November 2020, I reflected the wonder of Nirmali by tasting for the first time a homemade Feijoada, a rich red Portuguese stew made with beef, pork and red beans. I ate this meal with someone I had just seen, a person who conveyed his affection through the countless bowls of food he cooked and ate. As he heaped spoonfuls of stew onto my plate, visibly excited to be able to acquaint someone with a plate of food they had never encountered before, I learned about generosity – how easy sharing was. for some people.
The following month, he made Moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew, so light its flavors crept into my senses without warning. I noticed how he filled my plate with the things I liked to eat – potatoes and prawns – while serving me some of the stew. I learned everything I needed to know about mindfulness; about reminding the people you love that there’s never a time when you’re not thinking of them.
When I tried these two dishes in famous restaurants to prepare them a few months later, I was amazed by their delicate but more urgent taste, I felt transported back to our sofa when I tasted both stews for the first time: the afternoon when I felt loved before I felt satiated. No amount of culinary finesse can replicate what it truly feels like to take care of them.
In June 2021, when I moved away from the small support system that had enveloped much of my adult life, my best friend baked me apple pie on my last night. She initially refused to eat it – perpetually unhappy with her own brilliance – but joined in to hasten the demolition process. I don’t want to claim it was the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted, because that’s not the point. But I can say it stays perfect in my memory – as a reminder that when you’re with someone you love, you’ll never go hungry.
I think of both of them every time I come across Kevin and Chiron from Moonlight (2016), lovers who take care of each other by eating well. In one scene, the couple are seated on a dining table as Kevin (Andre Holland) lovingly serves black beans and a mound of white rice, gently squeezing lime onto a plate for Chiron (Trevante Rhodes).
“Eat your dinner, man,” he told her, an order drenched in searing affection. I’m sure Chiron enjoyed the plate of food in front of him, but I feel like, like Nirmali, he might have been much more grateful to the company. That’s the thing about eating together – it’s an invitation to practice a secret love language. The rest don’t even register.
Learn more about the series here.
Poulomi Das is a writer, critic and film and culture programmer. Follow more of his writings on Twitter.