Review: ‘Ameena’ (2024), starring Rekha Rana, Anant Mahadevan and Utkarsh Kohli

April 24, 2024

by Carla Hay

Rekha Rana in “Ameena” (Photo courtesy of Kumar Raj Productions)

“Ameena” (2024)

Directed by Kumar Raj

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, Dubai, France, Africa, and the United States, the dramatic film “Ameena” (based on the 2016 movie “Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai”) features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some black people and white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An actress, who is starring in a play as a real-life teenager who committed suicide after being raped, goes on a revenge killing spree after she is also raped. 

Culture Audience: “Ameena” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching terrible movies that are based on real-life tragedies.

Rekha Rana in “Ameena” (Photo courtesy of Kumar Raj Productions)

“Ameena” tries to look like a female empowerment film, but it’s sloppily made exploitation of a real-life tragedy. This horrible drama’s jumbled plot is about a play based on rape injustice and the play’s star actress going on a vigilante killing spree. The movie jets around to some glamorous-looking international locations, but all this jet-setting is really just putting a glossy sheen on some very unappealing and horrendous filmmaking.

Directed by Kumar Raj, “Ameena” is based on Raj’s 2016 feature film “Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai,” a movie that was Cameroon’s official entry for the Academy Awards category that was then known as Best Foreign Language Film. There’s nothing Oscar-worthy about “Ameena,” which is jaw-droppingly terrible and tone-deaf. “Ameena” mishandles two storylines (one based on real life, one completely fiction) in such a clumsy way, the real-life story didn’t need to be part of the plot at all.

“Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai” (based on a true story) is about a teenage girl named Ameena in Hyderabad, India. Ameena’s parents sold her into marriage to a Saudi Arabian man who was old enough to be her grandfather. Ameena was raped by three teenage boys in India and committed suicide after the rapists were acquitted because they were underage.

In “Ameena,” a teenage actress named Meena (played Rekha Rana) is starring as Ameena in a dramatic play titled “Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai” at the Prithi Theatre in India. (Meena is never convincining as teenager in her everyday life. She always looks and acts like she’s in her 20s.) The play is happening 32 years after Ameena’s suicide, but the play changes the timeline and describes the present year as 15 years after the tragic events. The play is nothing but some awkward-looking, incoherent and melodramatic stage scenes.

Meena is portraying Ameena at 15 years old. Ameena is distressed about being sold by her parents to marry a 65-year-old Saudi Araban man. Anant Mahadevan, who has the role of the unnamed playwright of “Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai,” just sits on stage and makes nonsensical comments as this playwright. Ameena’s ghost (also played by Rana) appears to the playwright to give him commentary and advice. All the scenes with Ameena’s ghost scenes are among the worst things about this very tacky film.

Near the begninning of the movie, Meena is shown in a police interrogation room, which is an obvious reveal that she’s going to be arrested for something later in the story. Meena defiantly says in voiceover narration that she is a criminal, and her crime is being female. Most of “Ameena” then has flashbacks to show how Meena ended up in this interrogation room.

One night, after leaving the Prithi Theatre to go home, Meena is kidnapped by three men, who rape her and viciously assault her. She is thrown into an open shallow grave and left for dead. Meena is found and brought to a hospital, where she is in a coma, but she eventually recovers.

During her recovery, Meena has a lot of time to think about the crimes that happened to her. And she decides she’s going to get revenge by killing her rapists and their gang boss Raghu Verma (played by Abeer Goel), who had ordered his thugs to kill Meena. Meena spews some nonsense about not only avenging herself but also teenage rape victim Ameena. It’s an illogical and lousy excuse to become a murderer.

Meena says her killing spree is a way to bring awareness of the injustice of Ameena’s rapist not being punished. (Conveniently, Meena seems to forget that her rapists are adults and wouldn’t be held to the same legal standards as the underage teenagers who weren’t held accountable for Ameena’s rape.) And how is she really helping herself if she gets arrested for murder?

Before she goes on her killing spree, there’s a silly-looking montage of Meena training as if she’s training to be become a mixed-martial arts fighter: She lifts weights, learns how to box, takes martial artist classes, and she goes on outdoor obstacle courses. The movie makes a point of showing that Meena is doing much of this training in a Los Angeles gym, with no explanation for why she’s in Los Angeles.

Meena gets some help and encouragement in her training from her love interest Ashish Shrivastav (played by Utkarsh Kohli), who occasionally shows up in the story. Ashish, who is very religious, is seen praying a lot by himself, almost as much as he is seen with Meena. Ashish is not seen for large chunks of the story, but then he shows up at the end of the movie for a very corny scene.

Meena’s travels also take her to Senegal, Togo, Dubai, and France. She stays at upscale hotels and hires some local men to help her hunt down her targets. Who is paying for all of these vigilante activities and trips? That answer is rushed into the end of the movie. While Meena is in France, she goes to the Cannes Film Festival, where she obtains a fraudulent festival pass, which she then exchanges for a gun. Yes, this movie really is that stupid.

After she murders certain people (in very cringeworthy and unrealistic action scenes), Meena feeds the corpses to wild animals, such as lions and alligators. While she’s in Africa, there’s a very upbeat hip-hop video-styled musical interlude that looks extremely out-of-place in this movie that is supposed to be about such a serious subject. The movie gets worse as it goes along.

And what exactly is law enforcement doing about these unhinged vigilante murders? Police Commissioner Bhupan Joshi (played by Kumar Raj) is leading the investigation into the murders that happen in India. The very unrealistic outcome of Meena’s arrest is also shown in the movie.

The acting performances in “Ameena” are downright awful and at times hard to watch. The overall technical aspects of the filmmaking are very amateurish, including shoddy film editing and an ill-suited film score. “Ameena” director Raj is also a producer of this garbage. It’s such a waste of money, not just for anyone who made this film but also for anyone who has the misfortune of paying to see this junk. The real-life story deserves better than the tawdry and pointless version that’s in “Ameena,” which is an abomination to cinema.

Kumar Raj Productions released “Ameena” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on April 19, 2024.

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