Azhar…Of a fallen idol!..Dear Dad…Its Complicated!

MUMBAI: Biographical or sports films are being mademore often in recent times than they ever were. With a dearth of script ideas as well as the writers to deliver, this is an easy way out to keep production lineup running for a studios like Balaji Motion Pictures. This genre facilitates mid-range star cast films at affordable budgets.

Azhar is one such film from the Balaji stable which mixes the themes of sport as well as a biography and, as a bonus, promises a potential tale to tell which would complete the makers’ requirements.

The film is said to be based on the life of the mercurial cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin; his cricketing career, his marriage followed by a romance with a film star and the controversy that followed implicating him in a match fixing scandal. However, a disclaimer in the titles belies all such claims as well as denies resemblance to any cricketer dead or alive.It is an account of the rise and fall of a celebrated Indian cricketer on his way to becoming a legend.

There a great feeling of joy and celebrations in this Muslim household of Hyderabad as the scion to the family is born. The maternal grandfather, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, names the boyAzharuddin, an Arabic word meaning, brilliant, luminous and such. Kharbanda expects Azhar to shine, stand out and to this end, he hands over a cricket bat in the hands of the child. He has taught Emraan some mantras for success in life and also predicted that not only will he play for India but will play 100 test matches.

Emraan Hashmi playing the protagonist is now grown up having championed the game of cricket at various levels starting from streets. Soon enough, he is selected for the state Ranji Trophy team. Before you realize the scene has changed and jumped several years into future, you seeAzhar playing test cricket for India.

Azhar makes his debut with a ton and follows it up with two more hundreds in next two tests. He is an overnight sensation so much so that the past masters give him various complementary epitaphs. The next step is inevitable; Azhar is offered the captaincy of the Indian team. This is in a very dramatic filmy manner where, instead of the cricket board calling him to the office to convey the decision, it is done by an official of the board doing it in the middle of an empty stadium making it look morelike a conspiracy than anhonour.

The rest of the team consists of senior players and the resentment at Azhar’s appointment to lead them is evident. Leading from the front, Azhar is soon in command and is now playing his 99th test match. That is when the bubble bursts as he is accused of match fixing. He is suspended and also found guilty by the CBI. What follows is an 11 year long court battle to clear his name. The board’s lawyer is Lara Dutta, imported from London. Lara has been an ardent Azhar fan all along, but feels betrayed now and fights the case vigorously.

Azhar, the film, tries to change the deeply embedded perception of people who once idolized the star cricketer. It is not easy to erase their hurt. The script takes recourse to a haphazard narration with past and present overlapping ad nauseam. The direction lets many glitches pass. To claim to have made a film on Azharuddin with a disclaimer does not let one change the facts of the case which dominated the media for long. The only catchy song is the remix of the old time mass hit, Oyeoye…. from Tridev. Even at 131 minutes, the film needs further clipping.

As for performances, Emraan does his best but, Azhar’s persona is too big to live up to even in a disgraced state. While Prachi Desai is impressive, NargisFakri, playing the second wife, is passable. Lara is okay.  The casting of other cricketers, especially Kapil is laughable. Kunal Roy Kapur saves quite a few scenes as an idiosyncratic defense lawyer.

Azhar is about a disgraced hero: there may be a few who would watch his tale out of sympathy not as an idol, which is not enough to sustain at the box office.

Producers: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Sony Pictures Network.

Director: Tony D’Souza.

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, NargisFakhri, Lara Dutta, Gautam Gulati, Manjot Singh, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Rajesh Sharma.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad is a father son bonding story. That would not have been fine thinking of a film like Masoom (1983). But, here, the already perfectly bonded family of two children and their loving parents is shattered as the father comes out the closet to declare his homosexual leanings.

Himanshu Sharma is a 14 year old lad in Delhi living with his father, Arvind Swamy, mother and younger sister. He is ready to go back to hostel in the hill station of Mussorie. The plan is to travel with his friends. But, the father, Arvind, carries a load on his mind and offers to drop Himanshu to Mussorie. It is the coming of age for Himanshu and Swamy wants to first get through to his son’s teen mind presently fed on nude pictures, playing games on his mobile and generally enjoying the stage of life he is in along with his friends. On the drive to Mussorie, while Swamy tries to strike a conversation, the son is immersed in his cell phone.

On the way to Mussorie, Swamy decides to stop at his parental home. Done with dotting momma, Swamy proceeds to see his father who has lost his speech. For, some reason, Swamy decides to tell his father that he was never interested in women. While his father has lost his speech (also, for no explicable reason, also his expressions!) and cant reply, the son overhears Swamy’s confession.

The son, Himanshu, is devastated and feels betrayed. He withdraws from his father and all his affection and is in a rebel mode. The son also suspects his father of wanting to spend the night with a TV reality show celebrity, Aman Uppal, who they have given a lift on the way.

Himanshu has confided in his closest buddy (all closest buddies in films are fat and seem to be jovial; this one fits the stereotypical, too). The friend takes him to a Bengali baba who can turn a homosexual in to a mard again!

While Himanshu wanted a normal happy family of father, mother and sister living happily, his dream is shattered.

Quite a few films seem to open the closet midway through the film lately; the recent examples being Kapoor & Sons while another one, Aligarh, was all about same sex attraction.

Dear Dad is the maker’s film; the audience is less likely to participate. The film follows a script of convenience as things happen because they happen. While the theme is serious, the treatment is casual. The father son patch up is as hurried as the fallout was for after all, a Debonair collecting son should know both sides of a coin!

What works for the film are the beautiful locales of Uttarkhand as the duo travel from Delhi by road, the scenic beauty has been beautifully captured.  As for the performances, Swamy underplays his being gay and the son, Himanshu, complements this with aggression. Uppal does very well. The rest are incidental.

Dear Dad will find it tough fit into a slot when it comes to identifying its audience.

Producers: Shaan Vyas, Ratnakar M.

Director: TanujBhramar.

Cast: Arvind Swamy, Himanshu Sharma, Ekavali Khanna, Aman Uppal, BhavikaBhasin.

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