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Azhar review: A weak telling of an explosive story!

Azhar review: A weak telling of an explosive story!

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Friday 13 May 2016

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Movie Title

Azhar

Director

Tony D'Souza

Star Cast

Emraan Hashmi, Karanvir Sharma, Prachi Desai

Azhar remains a fairly arresting watch, essentially for the real-life story it explores. A life of alleged notoriety - a controversial cricketer on and off the field, a match-fixing scandal that shook the nation, an extra-marital affair with a leading actress, his tense equations with colleagues and so on.

Of course, this could have been a much better film. Here, the story itself is a winner despite the watered-down execution.

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We track former captain Mohammed Azharuddin’s childhood, where his grandfather encouraged him to play cricket and answer local bullying with his bat. Deeply influenced by his grandfather, Azhar makes it to the Indian team, going on to captain it.

He seems content in his conventional marriage to his dedicated wife Noureen (played by Prachi Desai, made to look strangely pale). His meeting and falling for Sangeeta Bijlani, then a well-known Bollywood star, is awkwardly shown. There is an attempt to exonerate Bijlani from the ‘home-breaker’ tag by showing her initial reluctance to the affair. Nargis Fakhri plays the character with zero nuance and looks disturbingly skinny.

But then, this is not a film to be applauded for its sharp casting choices. Consider the choice of a clean-shaven, slightly built Emraan Hashmi playing the tall, athletically built Azharuddin. Chalk and cheese. Apart from the glaring lack of physical resemblance, even the personalities are differently portrayed.

We never get the small-town grounded-ness from Hashmi’s performance, and neither does the turnaround to an indulgent life register. We’re never feeling the pressure he’s experiencing as the Indian cricket team captain, we don’t understand if he’s in a dilemma when offered the bribe, and we never understand if he’s happy or dissatisfied in his marriage.

Yes, there is a moment when he asks his wife why they don’t have conversations, which hints at a lack of companionship in the arranged marriage. Other than that, he is portrayed as a happily-married man who falls for a gorgeous actress, they keep bumping into each other, and one thing leads to another.

Hashmi is earnest and honest as a performer, and even manages to elicit a certain amount of interest, even sympathy for his character. But what is an actor to do when an entire scene is built to promote a brand of underwear (a new low for in-film advertising) with dialogue after dialogue about innerwear!

More than the central cast, it is the peripheral cast that adds some flavour to the goings- on. Lara Dutta, slowly reinventing herself as a super choice for meaty side roles, is superb as the fiery lawyer. Kunaal Roy Kapur as Azhar’s lawyer does fairly well. Rajesh Sharma is outstanding as the oily bookie who slyly coaxes the cricketer to sell his soul.

There is plenty of referencing the ‘80s and ‘90s in the film. Azhar is nervous about the popularity of “naya ladka Sachin”, the match-fixing don is an obvious reference, Kapil Dev and other well-known cricketers are woven in the story, Nargis Fakhri dances to the tune of ‘Oye Oye’, and the hushed-up affair is exposed in a magazine called “Famedust” (now that’s a loaded name) .

Director Tony D’Souza chooses to tell the story over different timelines, but the flitting isn’t as smooth as it should have been. The film moves on from the match-fixing allegations to the case being fought in court. There is an attempt to showcase the grey shades of the central character, but the film majorly cops-out in the end.

Azhar’s most weighty dialogue comes much later— that scoring a 100 is important, no one applauds for a 99. In the end, the character calls the entire allegation and his winning the court case “the biggest test-match of his life”. If only the onscreen attempt was half as complex and intriguing as the real story.

Azhar review: 2. 5 stars

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