Serious Men Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui Holds the Fort as Only He Can

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Serious men Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a frame (courtesy of YouTube)

To emit: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Aakshath Das, Nassar, Sanjay Narvekar, Shweta Basu Prasad

Director: Sudhir Mishra

Classification: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Ayyan Mani, the antihero of Serious men, is a Dalit Tamil migrant. He lives in a one-bedroom block house in a Mumbai suburb. In the last years of British rule, these chawls served as a prison. For the protagonist, the dark and dank home he shares with his wife and ten-year-old son is still a cage.

Ayyan, played in a magnificently nuanced way by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is determined not to let his son Adi (confident newcomer Aakshath Das) languish in monotony and to disown his wife Oja (Indira Tiwari) from the grouse that nothing goes right for them. . The hell Ayyan is in is both physical and psychological. It reminds him of the oppression his family of manual scavengers endured for generations. He hatches a daring plan to escape.

Ayyan Mani’s story is funny and poignant in equal measure. Veteran director Sudhir Mishra’s lively performance draws on both the scathing satire and the bristling fury of Manu Joseph’s novel (Serious men, 2010) even when the script by Bhavesh Mandalia and Abhijeet Khuman deviates appreciably from the written text.

Ayyan has a steady, salaried job at the prestigious National Institute for Fundamental Research. He is a personal assistant to an arrogant and self-absorbed Brahmin astrophysicist, Arvind Acharya (Nassar), one of the “serious men” of the title. Ayyan has no love for him. There is good reason for their hostility.

Acharya is on a clandestine adventure with an attractive young researcher (flirting is, of course, an open secret among the scientist’s subordinates) while working on a project to send balloons into outer space in search of microbes in the stratosphere.

To go back to Ayyan’s story, she moved to Mumbai with her father. He went to school, the first child in the family to do so. Understand the value of education. But the history of accumulated atrocities in his community still haunts him. You are desperate to give your child a head start so he can have a chance at a better life.

If that sounds like the core of a powerful caste tale, it definitely is. It is another matter that Serious men it does not exactly cover the whole subject, and all its complexity. It settles for what is essentially a father-son drama set in the context of the caste dynamics of India. Within that narrow scope, the movie works perfectly well.

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Serious men Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari in a frame (Courtesy: YouTube)

Serious men takes an overzealous electronic media at his fingertips, an educational system caught up in the debate of merit against reservation and political opportunism, represented by a Dalit leader Keshav Dhawre (Sanjay Narvekar) and his daughter Anuja (Shweta Basu Prasad), a Carnegie Mellon graduated ready to carry on the family legacy.

In addition to a ballot, the ambitious lady has her eyes on a lucrative slum remodel contract. She decides to cash in on the celebrity status of Adi, a child prodigy whose confident spiel about the mysteries of the universe and the natural world brings the media to her doorstep.

The Netflix movie, which airs on October 2, captures the agony, anguish and anger of a man who knows he is “a small molecule in this society.” It resorts to irreverence and subterfuge as rebellion. He seeks to subvert the social structure that has cornered his ilk and condemned them to endless misery. You are determined not to let your child be affected by social limitations.

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Serious men Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a frame (Courtesy: YouTube)

But no matter how enraged the book against systemic violence directed at humans treated worse than animals, it presents a view of the lowest depths from a pedestal of relative privilege. Well, there is a seething fury in the narrative. But Ayyan Mani is a man who has come out of the swamp. The worst he faces now are the fights and haughty upper-caste scientists at the institute and the scathing knowledge that to get around the obstacles in his way, he must rely on his own wiles.

Adaptation to the screen of Serious men So it can’t be serious competition for Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry or Vinod Kamble’s Kastoori, films made by directors who have emerged from the social strata in which those scorching stories unfold. Fandry and Kastoori’s strong organic tone comes from the fact that they deal with lived experiences.

But once you get rid of that kind of expectation Serious menSudhir Mishra’s first adaptation of a published book is not a minor cinematic achievement: it is at once funny, sardonic, bitter, insightful and bellicose. It is stylishly decorated by Alexander Surkala and adorned with a subtle and evocative background score by the composer Karel Antonin.

And with Nawazuddin Siddiqui holding the fort as only he can and receiving wonderfully constant support from Nassar, Indira Tiwari, Aakshath Das, Sanjay Narvekar, and Shweta Basu Prasad, this is a rare film from Mumbai that addresses the caste system and its horrific results. . Serious men It’s worth celebrating for what it brings to the table.

Ayyan and Adi’s secret pact aims to break down the walls that prevent the family from rising from their position in life. It is fraught with dangers because it is deceptive. But for the protagonist, it is a way of taking revenge on a society that has perpetrated a much greater fraud against him and his ancestors. On a more mundane level, he hopes to bring some joy to his wife by conjuring up a myth about their son.

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Serious men Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Aakshath Das in a frame (Courtesy: YouTube)

Adi is fast-forwarding like a “child prodigy”. The media harasses him, a political party wants a piece of him and his school will do everything in its power to retain its star student. But those who take advantage of the child will not allow him to forget who he is: a genius of very, very humble origin. The political party that adopts Adi as a mascot is a group of Dalits. And the school’s headmistress, Sister Christie, prompts her father with the offer of a scholarship if the family converts.

Ayyan sees her son as a ticket out of her lower middle class struggles. Your boss is also not averse to bending some rules. Yeah everybody in Serious men on a downward moral gradient, whether you’re a high-profile, titled scientist, or a lowly government employee who takes great pleasure in turning the tables on his higher caste boss at the first available opportunity. With varying degrees of power depending on their place in the hierarchy, everyone is willing to manipulate the system to their advantage.

Serious men it is a minefield portrait of a society delivered with a lightness of touch that enhances its sharpness. More than just visible, the film offers the audience a lot to ponder.

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