Some stories give us more and take less from us in return, the stories that are not only important to the society we breathe in but also eye-opening at times. We often see such stories in newspapers and films that deal with the important subjects that go around us, which we experience but negate; one such story is Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men (2020).
The story is about Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Tamil Dalit living in the lower part of Mumbai with his 10-year-old son and wife (Indira Tiwari). He strongly believe that if he wants to make his life better, he has to do everything he can to accomplish it, even if that involves taking away strict moral or ethical metric. He is a personal assistant to an autocratic upper cast astronomer Dr. Acharya (Nassar), who often calls him stupid. Like most of the working class, Ayyan takes his words with a smile and kills his own esteem himself.
Ayyan is also a man with a vision. He wants a better life for his kid and wants his kid Adi (Aakshath Das) to achieve what he could not. Turn out young Adi has astonishing math-solving skills and questions on science; he amaze his teachers and principle with his prodigy. Now Adi gets more fame due to his astonishing skills and inevitably he gets the local politician and media’s attention. They want to get benefits out of his intelligence. There’s a secret about his son that Ayyan is holding within him. When that comes out, the perfectly mastered plan of his starts slipping through his hands.
The film is directed by well know writer-director Sudhir Mishra. It has been based on book of the same name by Manu Joseph. The nature of the story is bitter yet comical. Speaking of the writing of the film Sudhir Mishra along with Abhijeet Khuman and Bhavesh Mandalia’s pens down a satire story on the striking differentiation between the wealthy and educated and the poor and naïve with bit alteration from the original story. The screenplay shows the Dalit community’s problems and their submissiveness to the situation. Still, it shows the generality of asking to adopt Christianity for superior life and the casteism often used within the subjugated communities. Film sensibly manages to portray the friction between the rich and the normal people; it becomes predictable sometimes but yet it is engaging. The film falls only little shot to conclude what could have been an excellent social interchange on a higher grade. The subject is bold and ironic, which has generated with subtext with sarcasm.
The film has all the usual elements of the director which we see in most of his films. His vision makes you believe that the stars could rise anytime from anywhere. Still, in reality, it carries those dark whispers all round the narration he manages to give touch of his ideologies on India’s caste dynamics, son-father bond, casteism in politics into a narrow ambit well-crafted satire drama with perfect twists. Cinematographer Alexander Surkala apprehends Mumbai’s ethos and its dim lanes and contrasts the up-lifted against the slums at cyclical interregnum, which match up the narrative perfectly. Music of Karel Antonín contrasting theme for the background score, which has this typical deep. Both the background and script tend to enhance the atmosphere created through the story line.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the gem of the actor. He has proved his great acting and versatility lot much time. His acting is something that gets mold with each character, and in the role of Ayyan Mani, he has done the same. He has delivered dialogues in his own way where you can sense the personal improvisation and his expressions are perfect and precise. He is the key element that holds the film. His chemistry with Aakshath Das, who played his young son Adi is amazing. Aakshath Das may be small with age, but he delivers the role with an ace. Indira Tiwari, in the role of wife Oja, is exemplary too. Shweta Basu Prasad and veteran actors Nassar and Sanjay Narvekar have small parts but leave their mark with superbly acting, which helps the film.
Serious Men represent a minefield of a community furnished with a nimbleness of touch that magnifies its acuity. This film is a much-needed watch over the coming weekend; it has an important story with the masterly acting of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and cast. Overall it is smart satire and engaging. You can check out this film on Netflix.