Afwaah is a new Hindi drama film on Netflix that delves into the horrific effects that rumors can have on a society that is ready to believe anything against any opposing faction. The plot follows an advertising professional named Rahab, who is on the way to his wife’s book launch when he gets entangled in a messy scenario in a town named Sawalpur. Although Sudhir Mishra’s attempt at telling such a story during these times can be lauded, Afwaah mostly comes off as very superficial and simplistic, with no depth to its characters, crises, or resolutions.
‘Afwaah’ Plot Summary: What Happens In The Film?
Afwaah begins with a brief scene of Rahab Ahmed driving down a narrow highway road when a convoy of jeeps owned by a political party nearly pushes him off the road as they speed in the opposite direction. This convoy is led by a man named Chandan Singh, a local political henchman, who soon arrives at his party superior Vicky Singh’s rally. Vicky is an up-and-coming leader of the Rashtriya Vikas Dal, a powerful party in the desert state that is being shown. It is to be noted here that although the place is clearly Rajasthan, evident from the desert and camels and the Nahargarh fort, Afwaah does not mention any name and even gives the car number plates a fictional registration of “WP.”
Vicky’s rally on this particular day is at a locality that is predominantly Muslim, the minority religion, and as he begins his speech, his words are positioned against these very people. The Rashtriya Vikas Dal has only recently signed an alliance with a national-level party, and such sentiments against minorities are especially expressed with the alliance in mind. The situation gets very tense soon when Vicky is pelted with a few stones, and he has to step down and take shelter inside his car. As some of his own party members are also close to retaliating, the rowdy and crude-minded Chandan spots a helpless Muslim meat seller and enters his shop. Pulling down the shop’s shutter in a show of political strength and influence, Chandan then beats the man to death.
As the entire rally and the subsequent violence are all recorded by media channels, clips of them are soon released all over the internet. To make matters worse for Vicky, a clip of him telling Chandan to retaliate right before the henchman goes and kills the meat seller goes viral. Although he has the support of his party superior, Gyaan Singh, there is immediate trouble in his personal life. Vicky’s fiancée, Nivedita, or Nivi, is terribly upset by the violence and hatred that he and his party are part of. Absolutely disgusted by the political filth that she sees around, for Nivi is also the daughter of Gyaan Singh, the woman decides to run away from home. Although Nivi would find help in Rahab Ahmed, who is driving towards the Nahargarh Fort to attend his wife’s book launch, she cannot guess the terrible outcome it is going to lead to.
Why Had Rahab Returned From The USA?
A brief introduction to the character of Rahab Ahmed is given next, as the man attends a talk conference on his way to Nahargarh. A veteran in the field of advertising and hailed as “the adman,” Rahab used to live and work in the United States before returning to India. He has an interesting story to tell about the reason for his return, as he claims to have stopped some men from racially heckling an Indian man and his grandson in the US. Rahab’s method to do so was to immediately start recording the incident on his smartphone and encourage others on the bus to do so as well, which stopped the hecklers from disturbing the elderly man. He then believed that he could genuinely do better things in India than in the US or anywhere abroad, and for this reason, he returned to his homeland. However, much later in the film, Rahab admits to Nivi that this was all a lie. Much like his genius advertising campaigns, this story was also a way to sell himself to the crowds in India. Instead of taking any action against the racist hecklers, Rahab actually got off the bus and was left shaken and scared after the incident.
It was out of fear that Rahab had returned to India, where he possibly felt that he would not face any such ostracization. However, an equally terrible hatred actually comes his way in India, too, because of his identity as a Muslim, even though the man himself admits that he does not practice any religious faith. Despite the fact that the story of him using the power of the smartphone in the US was a lie, Rahab does actually use the technique to save Nivi from Vicky’s goons when he sees her for the first time. Much later on, he uses this same technique once again when he tells Nivi to record a video about how she was being hunted and persecuted by her fiancé and his party workers and put it up on social media. If we are to see Afwaah as a film totally about social media, then Rahab’s actions represent the right side of it, which can be genuinely utilized to gain support and stand up against injustice.
Why Did Vicky Spread The Rumors?
In a film based essentially on the boons and banes of social media, Vicky Singh is an antagonist who is quite unaware and very poorly informed about the uses of the internet. The man is mostly concerned with the state-level politics that he is involved in and dreams of reaching the very top of his regional political party. As a figure respectfully called Bana by his followers, Vicky’s aim is clearly to reach the stature of Gyaan Singh, who is venerated as Hukum. The incidents that took place at the rally at the very beginning of Afwaah do create pressure on Vicky, for the police as well as his political superiors, want his trusted henchman Chandan to be killed. However, what is even more disrespectful and shameful for the man is that his fiancée has run away from the house, a matter that is scandalous in his society. Vicky gets his men to track Nivi down as well but is unable to get hold of her as she escapes with the stranger, Rahab.
It is then that Gyaan Singh sends an IT expert to Vicky to ease his situation, and it is this expert who then advises him on what to do next. Videos that had been shot during the altercation with Nivi and Rahab had been procured by the expert and his team, from which the license plate of Rahab’s car could be seen. Identifying that the car belonged to a Muslim man, the man suggested that they term the incident a case of “love jihad.” The IT expert and his team quickly edited the videos to present a narrative that the Hindu Nivi was escaping with the Muslim Rahab because of an extramarital affair, and the helpless Vicky could do nothing as he was overpowered. The narrative also presents Gyaan Singh as a helpless victim, for he had no idea what his daughter had been up to. As Vicky is desperate to track Nivi and, more importantly, to cleanse his image in public, he approves of this plan, and the rumor is spread all over social media.
This is the central rumor (afwaah in Hindi) that drives the plot in the film, as both Nivi and Rahab face troubles because of this false narrative. In a society that already has a lot of hatred for each other, such a rumor does not take much time to spread, and bloodthirsty people also hope to act against it. When the two take shelter on a university campus as riots rage throughout the city, a young student confronts them about their apparently unlawful love, and Nivi delivers one of the main ideas of the film. She tells the student about how one should not blindly believe everything on the internet, especially things that spread hatred and intolerance against others. Even when Nivi is shot and has to be taken to the hospital, the video about the love jihad is watched by the people, and they soon keep them locked inside until Vicky and his group arrive.
Chandan Singh had been on the run from the beginning of the film, and he had taken shelter inside a truck in order to travel to a different city. Vicky gets to know of this, along with the license number of the truck, and he once again seeks help from the IT expert. It is now Vicky himself who cooks up a false narrative about how the truck is smuggling beef inside its cargo and gets the expert to create a video about this and get it viral on the internet. With the majority of the population enraged by this rumor, hordes of young men get out on the roads, trying to find the truck and stop it.
How Were The Police Also Involved In The Whole Matter?
Afwaah also showcases a corrupt police inspector named Sandeep Tomar, who is involved in the whole matter. As is quite natural in the country, the police inspector has a direct relationship with the party officials, and he is quite close to Vicky Singh himself. Although Vicky does not want his henchman Chandan to be harmed, Gyaan Singh directly asks Tomar to get Chandan killed in order to maintain the party’s public image. Along with this political pressure, Tomar is also instructed by the DGP to kill Chandan so that the state authorities’ strict actions on law and order can be propagated. Finally, as Vicky also accepts this fate for his henchman, Tomar goes to the farmhouse where Chandan has been hiding but mistakenly kills a different man.
The sister of this slain man reports the murder to the police, and Tomar tries to bury the matter through his subordinate, Riya Rathod, with whom the man is also having an extramarital affair. Tomar exercises a lot of unjust liberties on Riya for this reason, but ultimately the woman reverses the situation and ends this toxic relationship. Nonetheless, Afwaah throws some light on the regular injustice against women that has become a customary matter through this duo and also towards the end. At one point, Chandan Singh claims that Vicky has every right to do anything to Nivi because she is going to be his wife soon, but any such action against her by anybody else is a major crime. Rahab is shocked to hear this, and Nivi remarks that this is exactly how the lives of women in a patriarchal society are.
After escaping from the farmhouse and then realizing that it is the police inspector Tomar who is trying to kill him, Chandan gets help from a Muslim truck driver who lets him hide inside his truck. In this desperate moment, the henchman truly does not mind taking help from a man of the minority community, against whom he is generally so hateful. Chandan escapes Tomar multiple times before finally meeting up with Nivi and Rahab and agreeing to drive them to Nahargarh Fort.
‘Afwaah’ Ending Explained: How Do The Rumors Backfire Against Vicky?
As Afwaah reaches its climax, the hatred and intolerance spread by the rumors ultimately turn against Vicky and bring him down. Chandan, Nivi, and Rahab reach the fort, but the lit-fest authorities refuse to let Rahab enter, stating that there was massive unrest in the state because of his actions. They, of course, refer to the fake video stating that Rahab was in a love jihad, and once again, the rumor works against the protagonist. During this time, Vicky also arrives on the scene and has a confrontation with Chandan. The henchman keeps asking his boss why he wants him dead, and Vicky simply denies the charge, saying that Tomar was working on his own accord. Chandan’s character ultimately acts like the mindless henchman that he actually is, for he is easily convinced by Vicky’s lies and chooses to stay faithful to his boss. Chandan proceeds to stab Rahab, gets into a fight with him, and is ultimately found and shot dead by Sandeep Tomar.
On the other side, Vicky gets hold of the truck with Nivi inside and starts driving it away from the fort. But by this time, hordes of violent men, who were all searching for the truck, had found the vehicle and blocked the path. Realizing that they are here to act against the apparently interfaith couple, Nivi embraces Vicky and starts kissing him in full view of the men, and they angrily take Vicky to be the Muslim man running away with the Hindu woman. Vicky is engulfed by the same flame of hatred that he had earlier spread through the rumors, and he is lynched by the angry mob. The next morning, when the police arrive and open up the cargo haul of the truck, it is revealed that the vehicle was only transporting donkeys, and there were no cows or beef at all.
What Happens To Rahab And Nivi?
Although stabbed by Chandan, Rahab manages to survive the attack with wounds and is treated at a hospital. Once fully recovered, Rahab returns home and decides not to shave his beard, unlike earlier, when he kept a clean-shaved look. This might be a suggestion that the man decides to give his religious faith a chance and that his perspective has slightly changed following the threatening events earlier.
On the other hand, Nivi is seen to have become a politician one month later, following the death of her fiancé, Vicky. She is now the leader of her father’s party and is about to fight for a position in the upcoming elections. Despite having once hated the kind of politics practiced by her father and her fiancé, Nivi joins the same profession, perhaps with the hope of bringing better justice to society. Nivi is also seen with Riya, and perhaps she has been promoted to some higher post in the police force.
A last scene alongside the end credits shows Rahab and his father seemingly returning to their home, but the building has recently been burned down, possibly by people who were still hateful against Rahab for the love-jihad rumor. But Rahab’s father claims that the house needed to be razed down to be rebuilt someday, and Rahab also accepts fate and helps in clearing the rubble.