Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nassar, Indira Tiwari, Aakshath Das, Shweta Basu Prasad, Sanjay Narvekar
Director: Sudhir Mishra
In fact, to call Serious Men, based on the novel of same name by Manu Joseph, only a satire is not enough. It’s more real than reality in a unique way. It’s that aspirational trait in us that forces us to take the dangerous route. You know, the roads that can save time but also pose a robbery threat. Director Sudhir Mishra has turned Joseph’s super-sharp tale into an equally impactful film with Nawazuddin Siddiqui dropping the Nawazuddin Siddiqui act and blanketing himself with an all-together new persona, which is a heady cocktail of cynicism, greed, revenge and intellect.
Ayyan Mani (Siddiqui), a risk-taking Tamil Dalit from a Mumbai chawl, has a bizarre sense of humour. He is one of those people who keep dragging a joke till it starts seeming like a mythical narrative. Bold, spontaneous and aspirational, Mani is the assistant to a reputed and somewhat legendary astro-physicist Aravind Acharya (Nassar). While people underestimate Mani, he keeps hatching one plan after another, and you can’t actually blame him as the poverty in a chawl can be excruciatingly painful.
Director Mishra ensures we see Mani’s humble lifestyle around sky-scrappers, but he keeps twisting the plots before you form any final opinion about him. After a long time, Siddiqui has left behind his now-famous cynical laugh and disapproving body-language to portray a character that is ready to take a beating for the sake of small fun.
There is a board at his workplace, the Institute of Theory and Research that is used for showcasing quotable quotes from renowned scientists. He simply omits one name and puts another underneath a quote to make it sustain one more day. He sees a man at the sea bank and tells his wife what that person could be thinking before suicide, and just when the poor woman starts to believe him, the other man walks past them nonchalantly. In the middle of a conversation, he switches to Tamil only to piss off his arrogant and disrespectful Brahmin boss. And he is quite at ease while doing so as if the only thing he cares about is some fun and a little more intimacy. It’s tough to get his drift for the people around him, but for the audience, it’s the best that has come in Unlock 5.
The moment Mani has been waiting his entire life, comes with the sudden popularity of his son as a mathematics prodigy. He starts weaving theories around the kid’s genius and it’s hard to tell how much of it is not correct. But that’s Mani for you, he lives for another day, another win.
It’s like no other film that either Mishra or Siddiqui has done. While staying close to Jospeh’s skepticism about the idea of a just society, they have made the film their own by infusing an indomitable spirit and a certain kind of cleverness, rather cunningness, in the storytelling. Whenever Mishra goes political, Siddiqui ensures it doesn’t become an in your face sermon. Similarly, Mishra channels Siddiqui’s otherwise uncontrollable energy into a certain direction where everything except greed seems futile.
On top of everything, Mani categorically says, “Primitive minds. I can’t deal with you.”
It’s rudimentary yet deep, simple yet penetrating, serious yet funny. No wonder, they have called it Serious Men. These are seriously funny men or funnily serious men. One of the finest films of the year. Don’t even think of giving it a skip.