An official adaption of author Manu Joseph’s book by the same name, filmmaker Sudhir Mishra deploys subtlety and humour to make a comment on how young minds are denied opportunities in life, owing to their standing in the society. Fronting his vision is actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui who brings in his excellent theatrics to propel the narrative further.
‘Serious Men’ is the story of Ayyan Mani (Siddiqui) who will go against all odds to secure a more enterprising life for his young son Aadi (Aakshath Das). Mani, an under-privileged Dalit man, plays the personal assistant to celebrated Brahmin researcher Dr. Arvind Acharya (Nasser). Despite his social status, Mani has always been ridiculed throughout his life and deprived of the opportunities to secure a sound education and life for himself. He does not want Aadi to inherit the same fate as him. Hence, he plots a dubious act to pose his kid as a genius in front of the world. He makes Aadi mug up long theoretical sentences and even prompts him to deliver long speeches on child labour at political rallies, through a Bluetooth headset masquerading as Aadi’s hearing aid. All is well, until a chance incident threatens to blow up Mani’s cover.
The film being an adaption from a celebrated book across the world, is empowered by the screenplay by Bhavesh Mandalia, Abhijeet Khuman, Niren Bhatt and Nikhil Nair who weave in situations, highlighting the lives and times of the underprivileged, living in Mumbai chawls. These lives are overpowered by the city’s scaling high-rises and are often neglected and forgotten from our collective consciousness. Alexander Surkala’s cinematography, Karel Antonin’s background music and Rakesh Yadav’s production design familiarises viewers with the chawl life. Scurrying rodents, dilapidated rooms, break-neck corridors, the settings are eerily known to us. Sheetal Sharma’s costume design adds further relativity to the characters. The only downside is Atanu Mukherjee’s editing that could’ve been enabled by a sizeable trimming of the situations leading to the climax.
Nevertheless, the remarkable performances by the cast keep you invested. While Siddiqui’s act is by no surprise, Indira Tiwari, who plays his wife Oja, is a revelation. Watch out for her when she goes into labour at the poolside of a five-star hotel. Aakshath Das, who was also seen in the Tamil film, 'Mersal' starring Vijay, imbues Aadi with innocence and wonder making him a character, you want to root for. Nasser balances the act between arrogance and eventual empathy as the seasoned science veteran. Sanjay Narvekar brings heft and humour to his part as Keshav Dhavre, the leader of a political party with Shweta Basu Prasad playing Anuja, his crippled daughter suffering from a failed marriage, yet aspires and work towards becoming a voice for the youth with her empathy and kindness.
Despite brief shortcomings, ‘Serious Men’ makes for an engaging and an insightful watch. It’s now streaming on Netflix.