Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Nassar & Aakshath Das
Directed By: Sudhir Mishra
Run Time: 1hr 46min
Serious Men is a satire and an incisive look at caste and its subsequent social construct that is part funny, part ambitious and a tad generic.
The film is based on Manu Joseph’s 2010 novel of the same name. Centered around Ayyan Mani, a Dalit Tamil migrant in Mumbai. The who works as personal assistant to Arvind Acharya, one of the ‘serious men’ in the film.
Mani is hell-bent on getting everything that he didn’t have as a child, for his only son Adi. As a life full of privilege, better opportunities and above all, respect from people from all walks of life.
While ‘moron, imbecile, knobhead’ are just some of the terms hurled at Mani by his egoistic. Brahmin boss Acharya, who fails to be pleased even after repeated attempts by Siddiqui.
The latter, along with his ‘so-called neighbour’ who works at the same place, comes up with the term ‘serious men’. It is for all these upper class, educated, privileged people who educate themselves. Enough to conduct research and studies on ‘chu***stic’ subjects.
Mani finds every opportunity to use it as a weapon to very smartly and slyly turning the tables. It is in his favour or shame someone who dares to belittle him.
Mani, portrayed and interpreted by Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a meticulous and refined manner, will leave an impression on you.
As a father whose only wish is to give a better life to his son and he could go to any extent to accomplish it.
Determined not to let his son wither away his life in drudgery, Ayyan aka Nawazuddin dishes out a plan to bail out of the hell-hole he is in.
And from here, begins Mani’s journey of his own social upliftment. It is by convincing the people that his 10-year-old son is, in fact, a genius.
A Dalit man with a near-decent job, Mani lives in a two-by-two chawl that feels like a cage to him. As he is metaphorically trapped by the Mumbai skyscrapers and mentally imprisoned due to the oppression that is forefathers and father faced being a Dalit.
As a personal assistant to an important figure, astrophysicist Acharya, director of National Institute of Fundamental Research in the maximum city. Mani is quick to understand the worth of education along with a simple idea,
“Public jisko samajhti nahin hain, usko salaam thokti hain; respect karti hain.”
While instances where Mani is reminded of the subjugation that his ancestors had to bear for being Dalits and manual scavengers. It help him channelise his inner frustration and motivates him to put all his mind.
It is to come up with completely dishonest ways to get rid of a life he never wanted. It is ironically almost in sync with the scams run by these ‘serious men’.
Consequently, Mani chalks out a desperate scheme to escape his life of never-ending misery.
Sudhir Mishra film deals with the issue of caste-based discrimination without rubbing anyone the wrong way.
It sure has a subtle reference to ‘pleas’ to embrace Christianity for better opportunities, or instances where the caste card comes handy when a politician wants the chawl residents to vacate the place. So that an ambitious project of his can see the light of the day.
It shows the sad reality of the politics and wild games individuals from different walks of life. Belonging to different socio-economic strata play, in order to safeguard their own selfish interests.
In the end, everything is in place with the family reunited, living a normal life, away from all the grand scams.
In a far off place and Mani is seen spending quality time with his ‘average’ son Adi, the film ends with Nawazuddin’s character.
It is giving an impression that he has been punished for all that he has done, to live the rest of his life like a fool.
One of the best performances by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The makers have managed to deal with the complex issue of caste, sensitively and without any controversies surrounding the film.
Serious Men that streams Netflix on October 2, addresses the caste system prevalent in our society subtly yet evidently. And is able to capture the inner frustration of a man who knows he is a ‘small molecule in the world’, all too well.
We with all our heart give the film 3.5 stars you can watch this film in the weekend.