top of page
bloodq _.png

The Meat

of the Matter

Desire in

Bhaskar Hazarika’s


Written By Purvai Aranya

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Desire is linked intimately to consumption. When you desire something, you want it, you want to own it, you want to consume it. Desire for a lover is tragically fated to remain at least partly unfulfilled — this person that you want, will always remain separate from you. Desire for food, then, is an easier desire to fulfill completely. 


Aamis, translated literally as meat but titled Ravening in English, is a film about food and desire. It starts off gentle, before hurtling into the dark underbelly of its ideas. In the beginning montage, we see the two protagonists living parallel lives in Guwahati, before we meet them and before they meet each other. Their days seem peaceful, measured, and ordinary. While Nirmali (played by Lima Das) lives a more organized, domestic life centered around her son and her job as a pediatrician, Sumon (played by Arghadeep Baruah) clearly lives the life of a bachelor. Even before the narrative starts we see that their lives converge on their shared love for meat: Sumon is seen cooking and sharing a freshly slaughtered goat with friends, while Nirmali is obviously delighted that her son picks the word Mutton to use in the game of scrabble they are playing. They have no unwieldy desires yet that aren’t being fulfilled. The gentle, lilting Assamese song in the background perfectly scores the visual landscape of their well-defined lives. 

The very first scene after the montage shows Nirmali and Sumon meeting in circumstances which force them to break multiple rules. Sumon’s friend is sick, so he asks Nirmali for help. Even though her clinic is closed on that day, and she isn’t supposed to treat adults, she agrees to help. Sumon’s friend is moaning and writhing on a bed, because he ate too much meat despite being a vegetarian. Sumon and his other friends did not fall sick: different people have different reactions to eating meat. Nirmali handles the situation calmly, and tells the boys, “Meat isn’t the problem. Gluttony is.” This sentence is a chilling foreshadowing of what’s to come. We see the first person who almost loses his life in his lust for meat, his excessive desire. For now, this encounter puts our protagonists in each other’s spheres, and introduces Nirmali to the “meat club” which Sumon and his friends run.


They do not trust processed meat from the market, so they slaughter, clean, and cook their own meat to share amongst themselves. When Nirmali asks how the unprocessed meat tastes, Sumon laughs and says, “It tastes like meat!”. Nirmali asks for no payment for her help, but only asks to receive some of this meat the next time. Sumon asks if her palate is adventurous enough, and she looks away, laughing. “As long as you don’t feed me dung beetles!” It seems like this is a question Nirmali hasn’t been asked before. Her duties and roles as a wife and mother in this society have been clearly laid out, and so far she has been following the rules with a smile on her face. Over the course of this film, her life opens up to different forms of desire and pleasure that don’t fit within the rules — beginning with the desire for unprocessed, exotic meats.


It is no coincidence that a movie about exotic meats is set in North-East India. How often have you heard jokes about the kinds of meat eaten in that part of the country? Throughout history, cultures have sought to differentiate themselves from each other based on how ‘civilized’ they are, not realizing that each civilization has different rules for what is taboo. Food is one of the main battlegrounds for this war to take place. The other is sex and relationships. This film first sits lightly with these questions, as our protagonists begin to eat more and more exotic meats together, moving from rabbit to catfish to bat meat.


What is an innocent relationship at the start begins to move into murkier territory the more time they spend together and the more meats they eat. Despite having a son, a husband, and a serene domestic life, Nirmali finds herself entangled with a much younger man. She is able to ignore any twinges of guilt until a scene when she is at a wedding and finds herself texting Sumon. The wedding scene, though brief, demarcates proper familial life and behaviors so thoroughly that Nirmali is laden with guilt the next day, finally admitting the possible nature of her relationship with Sumon to her friend.

Nirmali and Sumon both have intellectual as well as visceral relationships to the meat they eat. She is a doctor, attuned to the slightest change in a child’s body. He is a PhD student researching the meat-eating practices in North-Eastern tribes. What they don’t seem adept at navigating is the excesses of desire that begin to take over once they enter into each others lives. Though they both know they shouldn’t meet, they keep flouting the rules they set for themselves. Nirmali’s husband, a looming absence in the film so far, appears from his work in the field.

Nirmali and Sumon try desperately to show that their relationship is ‘proper’ and can exist within the framework of Nirmali’s domestic, segregated life — but something within them both has shifted because of this relationship and the desires it has spawned. When Nirmali’s husband only feeds her vegetables for dinner, he finds her on the floor of the kitchen gnawing at a piece of leftover meat in the middle of a conversation with him. Her eyes are lit up with a different energy than we have seen so far. And Sumon, in his best friend’s veterinary clinic, falls asleep after discussing his waning relationship with Nirmali, and has vivid, almost psychedelic dreams. After their last meat-eating session, she seemed distant — he thinks it’s because he nearly touched her chin, but perhaps it’s also because her desire is growing larger. Bat meat is not exotic enough anymore. For Sumon, too, this platonic relationship is not enough anymore. He dreams of Nirmali, the mystery between her thighs, their hands almost touching, plates of food, her bindi transmuting into drops of blood across the screen. 

The psychedelic dream sequence in the middle of the movie marks an absolute shift in the story. Sumon has discussed the connection of hallucinogens and deviant food practices earlier in the film, but the viewer is still taken aback by sudden cinematic turn into a dark sequence of mutating, magical images in his head. When he wakes, he is clear on what he has to do, and it takes a while for the viewer or his friend to understand how serious he is. He begins to convince his friend to cut small slivers of meat from his thigh for his ‘research’. With this meat, he painstakingly prepares little dishes for her. When she takes the first few bites, she is transported to a new place in her head, a sudden image of herself on a swing, free. 


When she learns what the meat is, she tries to puke, but fails to. This is what marks her apart even from Sumon, who later pukes when he is fed meat from Nirmali’s leg. Their desires for each other bodies is finally being satiated — they get to consume one another — but he cannot stomach it. Meanwhile, Nirmali’s desire, once let out of its hiding place, grows to destructive proportions. While living her daily life, she was able to suppress any untoward desires, even though her husband left her with every domestic responsibility while providing her little intimacy in return. Now, in the thicket of her desires, it turns out she does not just want to consume her lover. She wants to consume the world — or at least a large, satiating meal of human flesh. For once she does not care what is proper, what is correct — she knows the feeling within herself that she is seeking, and she will do anything to get there.

He receives almost transcendent joy from giving himself to her, feeling the flesh being sliced off his leg, cooking a delicate meal out of it for her. But perhaps, like the viewer, he is still shocked that she can flout this most basic rule of human society — that we do not eat each other. For him, the flesh-eating practice seems to be a workaround for the restrictions placed upon the lovers because of Nirmali’s marriage. He is delighted that she wants to consume him — but as her desire grows, she isn’t satisfied with the tiny portions he can offer her anymore. When her wild desire goes beyond Sumon, he is shaken, but still agrees to help her. He wants so desperately to be of use to her. They try and fail to steal from a morgue. Eventually Sumon kills a rickshaw driver and is caught by the police while cutting the flesh. Because of their text message exchanges they are found out, and then projected on screens across the country for their ‘shocking and barbaric crime’, and their ‘bizarre hunger’. Fear and shame is how the state and society deals with deviant behavior and improper desires — so it makes sense that this film too evokes discomfort from viewers, no matter how open-minded. Heads covered in grimy sacks, hoisted outside the police station in front of a crowd of reporters, Nirmali and Sumon finally touch fingers, then hold hands. 

Screenshot 2024-03-07 at 11.44.03 AM.png

Purvai Aranya is an artist and writer, both gender-fluid and genre-fluid. They have an MFA in Poetry from the University of Minnesota, and are currently working in Goa as a freelance writer and researcher. Purvai’s work is published in The Indian Quarterly, The Pind Collective, Vayavya, and The Bombay Literary Magazine, among others.

bottom of page