Audacious, is what one could well term the core idea behind Serious Men which has been put together by Sudhir Mishra. If not for the conviction that the filmmaker has in the story and the confidence that Nawazuddin Siddiqui demonstrates in enacting to some of the most implausible plot points, Serious Men could well been left as is in its book format only.
Otherwise to think of it, how can one possibly explain the genesis of a child prodigy [Aakshath Das] and his subsequent rise and fall, especially considering the fact that after all it could all be one big lie? Or the fact that a lower middle class father [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] could actually find indigenous ways to keep the story alive for 10 long years? Or the manner in which the whole world falls in line with the facts and figures quoted by the kid while accompanied by a budding politician [Shweta Basu Prasad] and her father [Sanjay Narvekar].
This isn’t all as the adage of ‘maa se kuch nahi chupta’ is also shrugged away in this father-son tale as the lady of the house [Indira Tiwari] is oblivious to what’s actually brewing right in her one room chawl. Neighbors, students, politicians, teachers, government, media and everyone is just taken in by the tale that is spun by Nawazuddin Siddiqui who has a score or two of his own to settle with the world.
So while he knows how to play his under-privileged card at the most sensitive of moments, he isn’t the least perturbed by the ‘almost slave’ treatment that is meted out to him by his space scientist boss [Nassar] who is trying to find alien existence. While this tangent in the tale isn’t quite connected to the core story (and that despite when quite some time is spent on bringing on the specifics in front of the audiences), one wonders whether the film would have been crisper and more entertaining had it revolved around ‘how many dots in a condom’ study.
Nonetheless, what really works about Serious Men is the first one hour where you are caught by surprise with the narrative style of Sudhir Mishra. The edit pattern is quite different here and while the passage of time may seem rather abrupt, it actually makes for a fun watch as things move rather quickly. Each of the scenes that follow, right from Nawazuddin at his workplace to taking his wife to a five star restaurant to his meeting with the school principal to the discussion that he has with the school admin staff to the way he sets up the kid for media is amazing.
It is also a lot of fun to watch Aakshath demonstrate his prowess as a child prodigy, something that starts subtly with photosynthesis and goes full throttle with conversations centered on microbes. The confidence that he displays enacting this complex role is fun indeed, especially when he takes on teachers, media as well as students with a distinct glee in his eyes.
No wonder, this is where you feel that had the twist in the tale been reserved for the pre-climax or the climax instead of even before the interval point, it would have made Serious Men all the more engaging, exciting and entertaining. Of course that would have brought in a complete change to the plot points of the story but then cinematically speaking, it would have made for an exhilarating ride.
This is the reason why the second half of the film doesn’t come anywhere close to the big bang start that the two hour long film had taken. In fact there comes a point in the middle of the second half where there is practically nothing new that comes on the scene. As for the pre-climax and the climax, it is totally unconvincing, especially in the scene featuring Nawazuddin, Aakshath and Nasser which makes one wonder that why wasn’t something far more solid thought of.
Nonetheless, the man who is more often than not a delight to watch, Nawazuddin, makes sure that all eyes are on him all over again. That as well as Sudhir Mishra’s distinctive storytelling in the first half makes Serious Men an easy watch.