Serious Men directed by Sudhir Mishra based on the book of the same name by Manu Joseph is a very engaging mix of black comedy and political reality. I haven’t read the book, so this review won’t have any comparisons with the source material. The Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer has this quality of consciously moving away from being overly sympathetic towards the backdrop of the character. And yet it manages to convey the bitter truth reality of our system. And for a change, we are seeing it in an urban texture.
Ayyan Mani is the main protagonist. He is the personal assistant of a space scientist named Arvind Acharya. Acharya always considered Mani as an inferior individual with no intelligence. He didn’t even help Mani in getting a school seat for his son Adi. Frustrated by the way the society treated him Mani decides to play a game on everyone who underestimated him by making his son a science prodigy. The highs and lows of this tricky decision are the core of Serious Men.
Serious Men is not really a movie that dives deep into the lives of the majority Dalit life. As I said, most of the movies that address the issues of the oppressed have this tone of sympathizing with their defeat in the journey to be recognized by society. Here that structure is the same on a skeleton level. But the flesh around it is quirky and aggressive. The emotionally alienated feel the urban people get when they hear about the subtle or harsh discrimination Dalit people face is not really happening here. The story is such that it exposes the hate and exploitation of various social elements show towards them in a relatable way. And Ayyan Mani is this smart guy who decides to take revenge on the system by making a fool out of them; refreshing indeed.
After taking off in a swift and smart way, Sudhir Mishra slows down to show us the emotional state of his characters. The initial bits are full of aggression and satirical wits and the energy will definitely keep you excited. Then we slowly get to know the headspace and the reality of both Mani and Adi. That is the space in the story that shows us that the movie doesn’t really want you to feel for Mani. Mani is a victim of his past. Every time when we see Mani standing in anger or in conflicted mind space, there is this noise of a train which reminds us of the joke he told us at the beginning of the film; not really a joke for him. And if you look at the part that narrates his past and the dialogue with which the movie ends, the writers are showing us that recurring pattern. While the tracks with the politician and the scientists are in a way contributing to the intrigue of the plot, it is these subtle inclusions that give us an idea about the past or possible future of the characters that adds a sense of emotional depth. Alexander Surkala’s cinematography at times uses dramatic lighting to show the wacky thought process of Ayyan Mani.
Ayyan Mani is a thick-skinned and determined persona. Nawazuddin Siddiqui from-the-word-go shows the aggressive intent of Mani. Mani always has a backup plan and for him, his son’s convenience was always the priority. Nawaz established this tricky mixture of characteristics very convincingly. Aakshath Das looked apt to play this puppet-like character of Adi and towards the end, the movie does offer him a space to score. Indira Tiwari was a believable middle-class wife/mother. Shweta Basu Prasad plays the role of a second-generation politician and somewhere I felt that they couldn’t really utilize the divorcee angle. Nassar did the role of the arrogant scientist without making him a caricature.
It is the witty yet feisty aggression against the oppression in the narrative of Serious Men that makes it a really appealing watch. Sudhir Mishra and his pool of writers make sure that the peculiar ambitious nature of Mani is there even when the movie ends. With a flawlessly flowing Nawazuddin Siddiqui adding his bit, Serious Men is one movie you should give a try.
Sudhir Mishra and his writers make sure that the peculiar ambitious nature of Mani is there even when the movie ends. With Nawazuddin Siddiqui adding his bit, Serious Men is one movie you sho
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended