Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Aakshath Das
Streaming on: Netflix
Ambition can make a person go to any level to achieve what he/she thinks will be the ideal/right/better life/status quo for him/her. Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men, an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s novel of the same name, tells the story of such an ambitious man. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays this ambitious chawl dweller Ayyan Mani. Ayyan belongs to a lower caste and has lived his childhood in poverty. But this underprivileged man got the privilege of education. Now he wants his son Adi to get the best of education and live a better life than his father.
Ayyan’s son is a science wonder kid. Albeit, there’s a catch. Not giving you any spoilers, don’t worry. There’s an inherent originality in the film. It taps on many aspects of the contemporary socio-political world; here, Mumbai’s BDD chawls. Ayyan is not ashamed of his caste. He openly says a school clerk that you can’t call me a Dalit but I can call myself that. Some more moments in the film tapping on Dalit politics show that it is just like any other politics.
Also read: Raat Akeli Hai review: Simply brilliant!
In Serious Men, Ayyan decides to fool the system by the trick they use themselves; exploitation. Every character has its grey shade. The film (I haven’t read the novel) also touches upon religion, gender, power dynamics at home and workplace. In one smartly written scene, when Adi is getting ready to be photographed, makeup is being put on his face to make him look a little fair. Ayyan comes and wipes his makeup saying something to the effect of color does not determine merit.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ayyan Mani is fabulous in yet another Netflix outing (Sacred Games, Raat Akeli Hai). He is supported well by Indira Tiwari as his wife and Aakshath Das as his son Adi, looks like a miniature version of the obnoxious TV news presenter. This boy is so not interested in the camera and that works best for bringing out a sincere performance. The protagonist is Tamil. But that doesn’t really add any significant value to the film. The character could have been a Mumbaikar and it would have not made any difference to the story.
The screenplay and dialogue do become a little drab and cluttered later in the film. The film looks too clean to be true. But it has Mishra’s trademark touches in the treatment. Mishra is one of the few Indian filmmakers whose films you can watch without credits and still guess who has directed it. The Indian OTT space needs more of cathartic films/shows such as Serious Men.