Movie Review: ‘Serious Men’ (Netflix)

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If his filmography is anything to go by, it seems anything Nawazuddin Siddiqui touches turns to gold. Never shying away from unconventional roles, his most recent release ‘Serious Men’ (2020), helmed by Sudhir Mishra, caught the eye of many the minute its trailer released. And being an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s book of the same name, only added to its growing interest. However, being a Netflix release, gives this project a whole lot more competition than it would if it were to go to the big screen. Despite Siddiqui being an undoubtedly brilliant actor, will it be enough for people to click on play for this one?

Ayan Mani (Siddiqui) has a very undisputed way of thinking on how the world, and those that make up that world, work. He’s intelligent no doubt, where he expresses his opinions as facts, and his confidence makes up for his lack of thought regarding the consequences of his actions. Despite this, and due to it, Mani bestows his genius son Adi (Aakshath Das) upon the public to ensure he gets ahead in life unlike him, despite getting an education. However, Mani holds an unnerving secret behind Adi’s talent and it soon becomes a little too big for both father and son to bear.

Siddiqui is as ever brilliant in his role as the protagonist. Carrying the film fully on his shoulders, he does not disappoint as a father with questionable motives. Throughout the film, Siddiqui keeps his viewers gripped, with every move he makes and every word he says. Although there are many things that run through the audience’s minds as to what will happen, one can’t help but enjoy the actor in such a role, where he has a way of adding more suspense to an already hostile situation. Young Das has done an exceptional job with his role as Adi. His performance is heartwarming and one that doesn’t go unnoticed, where at times he even steals the spotlight from Siddiqui and the audiences are able to relate to his emotions every step of the way. Indira Tiwari plays the ever so innocent Oja Mani, the loving wife and caring mother. Her performance is sincere and innocent and she lights up the screen in every frame. A special mention does have to go to Shweta Basu Prasad and M Nassar, both of whom hold exceptional on-screen presence. Nassar adds the element of suspense and surprise where he has his viewers on the edge of their seat the more he enters a frame, where Prasad plays her character authentically and ensures only to give away as much as she needs.

Mishra has done a fine job of putting together an interesting cast for an interesting story. The film moves at a good pace and he has managed to hold the audience’s interest throughout the film. There are times, however, where one or two scenes are rather questionable and confusing, which makes the viewer wonder how this helps the story move forward, or if it could be done in a different way. There are also times where it’s difficult to keep up with some of the dialogue at times, where it just seems as though there is too much information in a small space of time. Mishra has done well however in dropping subjects of politics, caste systems, religion and prejudice in tasteful, yet thought-provoking ways.

Overall the concept of the film is simple and a good watch. The performances are brilliant, and Mishra’s use of close shots of people, buildings, and surroundings makes the viewer all the more invested in its story. Though it lacks a certain wow factor, it’s definitely a great addition to the list of Netflix releases that are coming out of the Indian Film Industry, with an interesting storyline that holds elements of comedy, suspense and drama all at once.

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