Afwaah review: Sudhir Mishra’s Afwaah (meaning rumour) explores the hazards and consequences of the grapevine, especially in the age of social media. Tittle-tattle and fake news can spread like wildfire on social media, adversely impacting the lives of many. The film underlines how easily people believe and share information that reinforces their biases without verifying the facts. It also offers insight into how power dynamics play an important role in the deamination of rumours that varying people with vested interests use to manipulate public opinion.
Set in Rajasthan, the opening sequence introduces us to Vicky Singh (Sumeet Vyas), an aspiring politician and power-hungry bigot who organises an attack on his rally with the help of his right-hand man, Chandan (Sharib Hashmi). However, when everything is recorded and broadcast on all news channels simultaneously, his reputation and his party—which is owned by his prospective father-in-law, Gyaan Singh alias Hukum—are completely ruined. This bothers Hukum’s daughter, Nivi (Bhumi Pednekar), who dislikes dirty politics, so she chooses to flee rather than marry Vicky. While on the run, the simple act of kindness between Nivi and Rahab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) spirals into a rumour that threatens to wreck their lives. Despite their efforts to prove their innocence, the influence of social media and people’s prejudice continues to work against them. The story primarily revolves around how they navigate their way out of this messy and complicated situation while the entire town is all set to hunt them down and they have nowhere to hide.
Afwaah is Sudhir’s second outing with Nawazuddin Siddiqui after Serious Men (2020), and the actor once again steals hearts with his restrained performance yet delivering the much-needed impact. Bhumi Pednekar shines with her bold and cocky attitude, which contrasts sharply with Nawaz’s demeanour. Sumeet Vyas skillfully portrays a power-hungry politician. Sharib Hashmi and Sumit Kaul (as Inspector Sandeep) play evil characters capable of everything from fabricating an attack to slaughtering people as part of their devious plans. Their performances are simply outstanding.
While the dialogues may be easily forgotten, the characters’ expressions in the emotionally charged scenes are a testament to their acting prowess. The film has few dialogues in the Rajasthani dialect (terms Banna and Hukum, still used in Rajasthan), and that adds realism to the narrative.
Without revealing the twists and turns—all of which are somewhat predictable yet engaging—the first half is pacy, however, post-interval it feels stretched. Cinematographer Mauricio Vidal adeptly captures the essence of Rajasthan, including its dark alleys and beautifully captured Nahargarh Fort. The song ‘Aaj Yeh Basant,’ by Rajasthani folk singer Mame Khan and Sunetra Banerjee, has a profound ring to it and underlines life’s ironies.
There is no doubt that loose chatter and spreading stories that are not backed by facts and truths can often affect people’s lives and society at large. This film reasonably manages to bring to light the impact of such afwaahs; however, the climax seems a tad convenient and could have left us with a stronger impact. “Rumour hai par phikar kise hai, na phailaane wale ko na sun ne wale ko.” This is the sad truth. So, think twice about what you’re going to believe and go check out this Afwaah.