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