Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nasser, Aakshath Das, Indira Tiwari
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Socio-economic and caste divides in India rarely lend themselves to a light-hearted approach but this dark comedy, based on a book by Indian Manu Joseph, does give it fair shot.
Ayyan Mani (Siddiqui) is a semi-educated, bright young man who is determined not to let his lower-caste birth inhibit his life’s lofty ambitions. While his wife, Oja Mani (Tiwari), is more laidback about their lot in the world, Ayyan has his sights set full-throttle on their young son Adi (Das) as the “genius” who will make a global mark and pave their way out of the slums of Mumbai.
As an assistant to an upper-class “serious man”, astrophysicist Dr Arvind Acharya (Nasser) who is blindly devoted to the microbes he is researching at the Institute of Fundamental Research, Ayyan has learnt some valuable life lessons, or so he believes. He hones his ability to mouth complex and convoluted phrases in the company of these serious men and eventually trains himself to master certain techniques that set the different classes apart. When in a jam, he finds that dismissing the challenge as being born out of a “primitive mind” seems to serve him well.
This is the training ground for a devious plan that involves Adi, a simple schoolboy who soon becomes celebrated as a boy genius in the eyes of the world. However, little does Ayyan realise that the secret web of lies he has been spinning since Adi was still in his mother’s womb may end up having the very opposite effect than the one he desires.
‘Serious Men’ lives up to the seriousness referred to in its title but under the astute direction of Sudhir Mishra, behind well-crafted films such as ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ and ‘Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin’, it does manage to lighten things up along the way. Ultimately, this satirical look at a society based on several forms of divisions, makes for quite a queasy yet enjoyable watch.
And, while Siddiqui is at his nuanced best, as always, it is the little boy Aakshath Das as his harangued son Adi who steals the show with a performance that is replete with the naïvety and pathos that the character demands.
This particular offering is by no means an easy-breezy ride, but save this one up for when you are on the lookout for something that takes a slightly serious, yet comical, approach to life’s many battles.