Serious Man Movie Review Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and half stars)

Star Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Aakshath Das, M. Nasser, Sanjay Narvekar, Shweta Basu Prasad

Director: Sudhir Mishra

Serious Men Movie Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sudhir Mishra - Genius Men At Work!
Serious Men Movie Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sudhir Mishra – Genius Men At Work! (Photo Credit: Bombay Fables/Cineraas Entertainment/Netflix)

What’s Good: It ends up being like that teacher who used to be best at both teaching and having fun, the story entertains you and educates you without rubbing anything in your face

What’s Bad: It won’t get the love it deserves, at least not immediately

Loo Break: It’s not even two hours, and it’s anyway disturbing to watch movies on OTT but still watch it one go

Watch or Not?: Oops! I already answered this above

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The entire story of this film revolves around the one big spoiler, it’s out there on the internet, but I’ll not include it while talking about any aspect of this film. So, if during the whole review, you find some unexplained things, please get that I have done this hide the spoiler yet trying to tease the excitement. The narrative revolves around a Dalit Tamilian, Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his son Adi Mani (Aakshath Das). Ayyan works as a personal assistant to a Brahmin astronomer at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai.

Leading a very ordinary and simple life, Ayyan wants his son to change the family’s future for him. Adi turns out to be this genius kid who raises some difficult questions, even for the well-informed adults around him. He becomes the centre of attraction for even the politicians around him, and everyone wants to the benefit of his intellect. But, of course, there’s a secret he’s holding in him, and when that comes out, the perfectly mastered plan starts slipping through Ayyan’s hands.

What happens next? Just read the review, and watch for yourself. Also, if you’ve read other reviews and already know the spoiler I’m not trying to uncover, I’m sorry for you because now the story won’t impact as it should’ve. Hence, it’s said, choose the words you want to read very carefully.

A Still From Serious Men
A Still From Serious Men

Serious Man Movie Review: Script Analysis

For the unversed, Sudhir Mishra (director) has adapted this film from the novel of the same name by Manu Joseph. Nick Rennison of The Times had called it a “bitter, comic novel”, and those are the two exact words to describe the nature of the film bitter yet comical. There have been indefinite ways to tell a sorrowful story, but I don’t think someone has taken this route before. The single line plot of Serious Men is, Nawaz’s Ayyan isn’t happy from his life, and hence he uses his kid to attain that happiness. Is that wrong? That’s the question Manu asked with the novel, and Sudhir Sir does with the film.

Ayyan’s constant struggle between choosing what’s moral and what’s not is the thing that will hold back many. Bhavesh Mandalia just gulps in the novel to come up with only the portions that would make sense in a film. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read a great deal about it before penning this review so take these opinions accordingly. Apparently, Sudhir Sir has ‘moved away’ from the novel with its essence alive but keeping just the right things.

Despite showing Mumbai, Alexander Surkala’s cinematography never attempts at showing you the touristy side of the city. There are few sea-link glimpses, but that’s about it. The city doesn’t hold any importance in the narration, and I didn’t mind it because I didn’t step in to watch the picturesque locations. I walked in to see the drama with the touch of Nawaz’s eccentricity, and I got plenty of that. Atanu Mukherjee (also directed Manoj Bajpayee’s Rukh) keeps the intrigue alive with his sharp editing. Staying at around 110 minutes, the editing doesn’t hold back any clutter.

Dialogues play a critical role in making a resolute commentary on the topics it’s facing. There’s a scene in which a character asks Ayyan about his cast addressing by his surname, “Yeh Mani (surname) kaun hote hai?”, to which Ayyan replies, “Kaun hote hai? Ache hote hai!” This is just a teaser of how Sudhir Sir has played around important subjects without making them look important. In yet another simple scene Ayyan frees the captured birds when it’s raining heavily outside for the birds to go, that’s to indicate how despite setting himself free, he’s still trapped. There’s a lot to talk about, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone reading the review.

Serious Man Movie Review: Star Performance

Post watching the trailer, one of my friends told me how well this was a setup for Irrfan Khan? And I just couldn’t get this thought out of mind for the whole film. Don’t get me wrong because Nawazuddin Siddiqui does what he does best, be the character he’s offered to play. If Ganesh Gaitonde (Sacred Games) was a Dalit Tamilian with a dash of knowledge about science, he would’ve been Ayyan.

Here he doesn’t have the ‘conspicuous dialogue delivery’ he’s usually blamed for, but still, he mouths the lines with so confidence that they connect you with the angst of his character—another excellent performance by the real ‘serious man’ of Bollywood.

Indira Tiwari as Ayyan’s wife Oja has a minimal scope, also because of the story’s structure but that’s okay. She makes sure to make the best of what she has got. She pulls off to stay earnest around Nawaz’s idiosyncrasy and still shine in the scenes.

Aakshath Das as Adi, the kid, brilliantly juggles between the innocence he knows he has and acting he knows he can do. He is just another kid in the film because he acts well like one. Despite throwing heavy dialogues on him never makes him break the character and cross any line. It’s always hard to direct children despite directors like Majid Majidi making it look simple, here Sudhir Mishra manages to extract the best acting from Aakshath.

The supporting cast has names like M. Nasser, Sanjay Narvekar and Shweta Basu Prasad but their stories are just glimpsed at. Still, it’s always delightful to see such talented faces in good films.

Serious Man Movie Review: Direction, Music

Sudhir Mishra feels you cannot please everyone with your craft and he’s unfortunately right about the same. But, Serious Men should surely be his most ‘universal’ film as far as the appeal goes. It still has every Sudhir Mishra element in it. It makes you believe that the sun could rise anytime now, but in reality, it carries those dark undertones throughout the narration. Sudhir Sir sanely mashes up his ideologies on the caste-based reservation, son-father bond, casteism in politics into a well-crafted drama all gripped tightly by that one major spoiler.

Karel Antonín chooses a contrasting theme for the background score. Without following any set formula, he just decides to keep the instruments minimal and noise-free and that works in favour of the film. The film has only one song, Raat Hai Kaala Chhata, (which goes hand in hand with the film and it’s oh-so-hummable) and it’s sung Swanand Kirkire (composed by Francis Mendes, written by Shri Vallabh Vyas). The song is definitely staying in my playlist for a long time now.

Serious Man Movie Review: The Last Word

All said and done, Serious Men is serious at its core, but its treatment allows the story to be entertaining and intriguing at the similar time. If you can overcome some abusive dialogues and a couple of mild sex scenes, watch this one with your family.

Three and a half stars!

Serious Man Trailer

Serious Man releases on 2nd October, 2020.

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