Cineastes take Sudhir Mishra seriously even if the box office does not. There is, yet again, justification for this in his latest film: Serious Men. The opening moments of the film with a song reminiscent of Hemant Da sets the mood for something serious, if not always absorbing. The film has multiple layers of protest. Each of which is a subject matter of social concern and Mishra puts it across with his signature bluntness. Even in the realm of avant-garde cinema, one suspects Sudhir Mishra has not got the recognition he deserves. This is one such instance with the film releasing so silently and visible only to those who closely follow the circuit.
The subject is about a middle-class man’s angst and his faulted insurance for the future through his son. In the telling of this tale, however, Mishra deals with various aspects — sometimes subtly, sometimes brazenly. The multilayered prognosis of a social order in awry is designed to look at multiple social cards: education, conversions, the unholy link between politics and science, rivalry when scientists become bureaucrats. The real estate, the Dalit card and, most importantly, parental pressure on children to live their unfulfilled dreams.
The protagonist Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin), a Dalit, has had a huge hangover of his unfulfilled dreams and decides to live it through his son. He builds castles on quicksand and desires great success from his seemingly brilliant, gifted, prodigious son Adi (Aakshath Das). Even his wife Oja (Indira Tiwari) is not privy to his evil plan. Working at a research institute headed by Dr Acharya (Nassar), he is completely disappointed with the class distinction. To state anything more would be to rob the viewer of some fun and defeat the purpose of the built of the script.
The filmmaker avoids cliches except that the hot scenes in the film are completely out of context. There are times including the school admission when the script requires Nawaz to do a Nana Patekar and he partly does exactly that. Even as the song is played in the background in the finale, the filmmaker makes sure you get to know that the gravity in a black hole is so strong that even light can’t escape it…
Dark times remind you of your darkest memories, the ones you can never forget. The manner in which the filmmaker takes you into the past of the protagonist as a seeming justification for his ingenuous plan is very touching and brings in yet another layer to the story.
Yet again, a film starring Nawazuddin is dependent on him to a large extent. Yet again, he plays the part of a bad guy with angst. Yet again, he is good and worth watching. While rest of the cast deliver what is expected of them, it is interesting that the casting director went to Nassar for the role. I’d have to see someone like Atul Kulkarni do it. The message that it is OK if you fail and marks do not matter are somewhere lost in the script.
True to its title, this outing is for ‘Serious Men’.
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