But seriously—What is this film “Serious Men”, too long for the content, trying to say? Is there a message somewhere in the mess? The entertainment part holds for about 45 minutes, and then things start getting woozy, unfunny and finally, almost unbearable in their illogic and in whatever "rationale" makes the principal characters behave the way they do.
It is billed as a "comedy-drama." A drama has a beginning, middle (crisis) and an end. Here the crisis is stupid and comes as a natural (the current word in fashion is "organic") result of the protagonist's stupidity, the end is largely incoherent, "let's-now-get-it-over-with" kind and the beginning, extremely amusing, does not warn the viewer what is in store. So that's about the drama and comedy.
The absurdities would make a David Dhawan cringe, the boredom from hour number two could do credit to the worst art cinema ace in India, and the lack of a sensible script for what, with some major tweaks, would have been an interesting tale, undoes the film. I for one just about managed to sit through the final 35-40 minutes!
Briefly, the story is about Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, cashing in on his hype and branding, doing one good film to every terrible six to ten!), a PA to an astronomer (Nassar) in the National Institute of Fundamental Research. Hailing from a lower-caste village family, Ayyan wants his son Adi (Aakshath Das) to be everything he could never be and also using material from his bosses, projects him as a genius. How he does that is facile but is a secret kept even from his simple wife (Indira Tiwari) who starts believing what the world does—that Adi is a wonder-kid. A politician (Sanjay Narvekar) and his altruistic daughter (Shweta Bau Prasad) get besotted with him. When and how will the bubble burst?
It is in bursting the bubble that the limited cinematic vision of the people behind the team comes to the fore. The messages seem to be a father doing his best for a son's better life and not forcing children beyond their abilities, but does it make sense in the way shown? No. Seriously.
Such films usually have good performances as good artistes are either conned or tempted by the meaty roles alone, not seeing the wood—the overall picture (pun intended) for the trees. The script pays more attention to the characters than to itself! Siddiqui is as usual himself, quite good but not extraordinary here, and Nassar is wonderful. Indira Tiwari, the little boy Aakshath Das and Shweta Basu Prasad are excellent.
The film is nowhere close. Sudhir Mishra comes unstuck after the superbly executed "Hostages 2."
Rating: ** (Just About, for all the performances)
Produced by: Bhavesh Mandalia, Sejal Shah & Sudhir Mishra
Directed by: Sudhir Mishra
Written by: Manu Joseph, Niren Bhatt, Abhijeet Khuman, Bhavesh Mandalia &
Music: Karel Antonín & Francis Mendes
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Aakshath Das, Sanjay Narvekar, Shweta Basu Prasad, Nassar, Kasturi Jangam, Vidhi Chitalia, Sushil Verma, Mayukh Ghosh & others