‘SERIOUS MEN’ IS A REFRESHING DARK SATIRE

Rating: 3.5/5
Maverick director Sudhir Mishra builds a realistic social fabric to give a story that’s cryptic and symbolic

Science, technology, politics, childhood, education, sharp minds, materialism, and social class divide. It’s no mean feat to weave them all intricately into one thread. Serious Men, based on the eponymous novel by Manu Joseph, is a satirical portrayal of what man wants to do if denied of something basic or to what level his aspirations can soar. The only thing lacking is the fluent connect.

Watch the trailer here:

PLOT

Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Dalit works as an assistant to a Brahmin astronomer. He lives in a chawl with his wife and a son. Furious at his situation in life, Ayyan develops an outrageous story that his 10-year-old son is a mathematical genius – a lie which later gets out of control.

STORY/SCREENPLAY/GENERAL

The story is straight from a popular novel. Hence, it’s already a winner there. The screenplay is written by Bhavesh Mandalia and Abhijeet Khuman. The additional screenplay is penned by Niren Bhatt and Nikhil Nair. The premise is engaging. Novel and thoughtful. Especially for a Bollywood scenario. The film touches you impressively.

The setup is particularly likeable as humour dominates the situations early on in the film and the story slowly taking shape on a parallel track. Mind you, do not miss the little nuances of class divide thrown frequently. These are subtle. But deliberate. They also form a catalyst for narration, giving the story a complete journey.

The projected genius- the kid- is also adorable as he makes a mark in the society. As an audience, you are also made to believe him and even when you know he is not a genius as the world knows him to be, you don’t mind, only until the makers twist the story. Intelligent move.

Serious men, netflix, review, hindi, film, 2020
Director Sudhir Mishra (left) and a scene from the film (right) (image source: indianexpress.com)

Good thing- the film remains a satire all through. Not so good thing- it loses connect. Of course, the political angle is inevitable, because that’s one thing omnipresent. But the narrative dips when there is politics involved. The film takes you away from the kid where you actually wanted to see more of him or even his gimmicks. There are successful attempts to balance by showing the mental trauma of the kid and also what course the father actually takes at regular intervals. But it requires you to be very patient to reach the final 20mins of the film, where it picks up yet again.

Humour, pathos, emotions- all drive the film keeping social class in the focus. Dr. B R Ambedkar has been referred to thrice. What is good about the film is that social class divide has been explored differently, more as a way of rising up from what the situation is, never actually blaming the system in the bigger picture. The ways are right and wrong. Moral and immoral. And that’s where as audience, you are asked to choose a side.

PERFORMANCE

Nawazuddin Siddiqui proves film after film that he can never go wrong. Effortless. Easy. Effervescent. Admirable. Simple. Up on the mark. He is simply brilliant. This is a film where you would feel that this could be done by anyone and may be a thought would cross you as to Siddiqui is no great. That very thought is the testimony to his acting finesse here.

Indira Tiwari has a shorter screentime but she makes sure she contributes immensely. She has her moments to shine individually, which she does. Suiting the role to perfection, she makes you believe in her character.

Serious men, netflix, hindi, film, review, 2020
A scene from the film (image source: youtube.com)

Aakshath Das is very very promising. His role requires him to be intimidated almost all the time in the film. He maintains that fear and nervousness with grace. Great work.

Nasser is very good in a supporting role that’s present almost all through the film, in the backdrop. Whenever he comes on screen, the film does progress. He has done a good job.

Sanjay Narvekar gives you confidence in his role. It’s not only good to see him on screen after long, but also interesting to cherish him in his role. He plays a politician, but the picture is a little different from what we arr used to seeing. Shweta Basu Prasad is also good in the role of an aspiring politician, cashing in on the popularity of the genius kid. She does well. She has a poise in her body language, working well for the character.

OTHER TECHNICALITIES

Karel Antonin’s music is good, creating a background frame very well. The score matches the boundaries of the plot and gives you good time viewing.

Alexander Surkala’s cinematography is wonderful. Creating the spaces- varied ones- as per the scenes, he has given the film a realistic feel. Production design by Rakesh Yadav is also brimming with realism. The sets are very much relatable. It is also because of the sets that the camera is able to capture the authenticity.

Editing by Atanu Mukherjee is decent. It could be better in the middle portions of the film though.

The concept is good. Fresh for Bollywood. The film will definitely register its name in the list of quality cinema. Will be liked enough? Probably not.

Rochak Saxena

Rochak Saxena a Mass Media Teacher, former journalist at DNA and an ardent lover of Hindi films - literally. The blog derives its name from the popular term ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, most commonly used in the world of literature and cinema. Meaning to immerse yourself in an unreal world (where you know what you see on screen is fake) with a self-proclaimed/declared belief/wish to consider it real, the willing world becomes magical. It’s the same magic every Friday that drives Rochak to share things in the perspective that it needs to be observed with. Every film is different. And the difference needs to be cherished.

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