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Story of an ambitious father ill-judged to walk on thin ice

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Film Review                                                         Serious Men

By Sunita Vijay

History of past, oppression beating ambition in the heart, personal aspirations and shrewd intelligence, when join hands in a doting father, a distinctive personality takes birth.

Serious Men is the story of Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Dalit, one of the luckiest men in his village to have access to formal education. He works as PS to Mr Acharya, a brahmin and head of a renowned Science institute. Mani is a man who has unimpressionable opinions and hard-core views about everything under the sun especially on topics pertaining to the tormenting treatment dalits endured in the past; underprivileged living, denial of opportunities, being under nourished and more. A silent rebel thrives in him, always ready for verbal wrestles struggling hard to bring positive changes in his life. His home in a suffocated chawl is an embodiment of the pitiful life he and many others like him lead, while grappling with circumstances amidst the caged living and strange helplessness.

Serious Men is based on the book by Manu Joseph. It is an engaging satire, sprinkled with humour, science, wit and Nawazuddin’s brilliance – showing how far a man can go to improve the social acceptability of his child by uplifting his stature even if it means to play with fire and the child’s psychology. His secret endeavours with his son Aadi Mani (wonderfully played by Aakshath Das), to make him famous and respectable in social, political and academic circles, is a dream he nurtures and works towards. His efforts to portray his son as child prodigy land him in a tight spot where some reformatory choices have to be made to pull life back in the right direction. ‘Life main kuch na karne ke liye four generations lagti hai’, he says while calling himself 2G and wishing to make his son’s life 4G.

Abhijeet Khuman’s writing, Bhavesh Mandalia’s screenplay, able direction of veteran director, Sudhir Mishra have weaved a compelling narration befitting enough to touch many topics right from class divide, domestic violence, caste system, to poverty and above all a father’s humongous aspirations. All this has been executed through various characters, their doings and misdoings.

Aayan Mani is a genius and manipulator both. Nawazuddin infuses life to the role, addressing each emotion with finesse – seen in full control over dialogue delivery and body language. His journey is relishing as we experience his joys, rejections and frustrations. It is painful to see his skills and intelligence becoming his biggest challenge as he yearns to portray his son as a ‘genius’. Best thing about him is that he doesn’t play a victim rather prefers to be the transformer. His angst is justifiable but not his actions as mentioned by Mr Acharya, his boss played by Nassar.

Ayyan is adequately supported by his wife (Indira Tiwari), a sensible, bold woman who knows when to take a stand and to challenge her husband on finding him disarrayed. Anguish, happiness, love, spark, annoyance – all emotions ooze perfectly through her kohled eyes.

Mani calls himself a small molecule in the society but his lofty deals to topple his boss, to get him reinstated, he shaking hands with ambitious father-daughter pair (builders who cash on Adi’s fame to score their business and political ambitions) – all is delightfully brutal. In its limited scratching of the varied social issues, Serious Men lets us know that all humans have flaws, they plan and scheme for personal growth while playing emotional chores.

The song, ‘The umbrella of night has so many holes. Who poured acid on it…is an unsolved mystery’ is as fascinating as the thought process of Ayyan. It is played thrice in the movie at various junctures of Aayan’s life.

The movie is deliciously wicked, enlighteningly dark, maliciously sweet and conniving. It’s a delight to watch all the characters contribute adequately in it as it rides high on brilliant acting, mild melodrama, churnable emotions and relishing dialogues. It is enjoyable yet forces one to question a lot.

‘Ye teri jagah hai, yahan baith kar padhna, sunlight kam hai toh kya hua, tu apna talent se chamkana’- a dialogue that describes the core wish of a father who oversteps certain boundaries, crosses parental line, to see his son’s life bright.