Creator and actor Akshun Abhimanyu’s “Seven Rounds,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year, reflects on the topical themes of gun violence, racism, and the Trump administration’s implementation of a travel ban from majority Muslim countries.
It’s a meaningful short film, one that will illicit and emotional gut punch because it is based on the real-life events that transpired in Olathe, Kansas, last year which resulted in the tragic death of Indian immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla.
Kuchibhotla was at a bar with his friend Alok Madasani when another patron started yelling racial slurs at them and asked about their legal status. After being told to leave, the man returned with a gun and shot at Kuchibhotla and Madasani, as well as another customer, Ian Grillot, who came to their defense.
The film is also stark reminder to keep the conversation alive about bias towards Muslims and South Asians.
Abhimanyu and Abhay Walia play the main characters Ashok and Suraj, respectively. Ashok is elated that his leave for a trip to India is approved because he hasn’t been home in a long time. The two of them go to a neighborhood bar to celebrate. You can tell it’s one they frequent because the folks working there know them well. They feel they are among friends there.
At this bar, they also encounter a particularly loud and rude customer who takes swings at them because of their appearance; at one point the heckler calls Ashok ‘Osama Bin-Laden.’
This leads Ashok and Suraj to have a deep conversation about the current political climate in the country, what it means to be an immigrant in America, and how not all people are necessarily racist. Suraj pushes to look at the positives while Ashok is rightfully saddened by how he’s always perceived.
In a particularly strong scene early in the film, Ashok stops at a convenience store and meets another Indian man behind the counter. Their exchange, although brief, is a pointed remark at the bigotry amongst those in the South Asian diaspora itself towards Muslims.
The film’s most haunting moments come towards the end. It’s not an easy watch, knowing about the real tragedy that took place last year, but it’s definitely an important one.
Director Giorgos Savvidis does a good job by building the narrative. Writer Karthik Menon lends a poignancy to the film with his dialogues, especially the conversation between Ashok and Suraj in the bar. It speaks not only to South Asian immigrants but also to everyone who has faced moments of doubt about the political administration.
“Seven Rounds” will be screened on September 23 at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival and the Bay Area South Asian Film Festival. It has also been selected for five additional film festivals, including Delhi International Film Festival in October 2018.