The film is directed by Tony D'Souza.
In the first of the three biopics (which the mahers claim, is not a biopic) made on a cricket star this year, Azhar reaches the marquee this Friday. Starring Emraan Hashmi, Nargis Fakhri and Prachi Desai, it is about certain events that happened in the blackest period in the sport of cricket, told through the eyes of a man at the vortex of the scandal.
Let's see how the film fares...
What's it about
The film warns us in the start, so we have to warn you as well. This film is not exactly a biopic of the former Indian cricket captain but a fictionalised version of what could or could not be the truth. Confused? So was I.
The film begins with Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) completing his 99th Test match with a match winning innings. However, a sting operation carried by a jealous fellow cricketer Manoj involves him in the match fixing scandal. He is banned from playing any further matches by the association. We then start hearing various names associated with the scandal like Hansie Cronje, MK Sharma (Rajesh Sharma), Chandrachur committee, and others. From being a hero in one moment to being a traitor in the next, Azhar's life takes for a worse turn. He later takes the help of his childhood friend cum lawyer Reddy (Kunaal Roy Kapur) to remove the life ban off him. However the case has a very strong prosecution in the form of Meera (Lara Dutta), a former fan of Azhar, who is betrayed by her idol's treachery and is determined to prove the allegations to be true. In between, plays the romantic interludes of Azhar as he first serenades his first wife (Prachi Desai) before ditching her for the hot actress, Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri).
The premise is definitely interesting - after all, we are really curious to know what went behind all the match fixing allegations and whether Azhar really had a hand in this. If the film draws a lot of audience in the first week itself, it is purely because of this reason. To the makers' credit, they straightaway get to the point. Real life incident and references to real people (Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev and even the Little Master...why even a Khan was sneaked in as an Easter egg). The courtroom sequences are lively, thanks to the performances of Lara Dutta and Kunal Roy Kapur. Even Azhar's early interactions with his first wife is hilariously sweet! Prachi Desai is apt as Naureen, the first wife. Gautam Gulati impresses as Ravi Shastri (or the man modelled on Ravi Shastri...we are very confused!). We do wish that there were more scenes of him. But the film ultimately belongs to Emraan Hashmi. It is his sincere performance (even though his Hyderabadi accent go on and off as per the convenience of the script), that makes us invest in the film. Even though he doesn't look anything like the real Azhar, he makes sure he adopts a few mannerisms of the former cricket star, but not to the extent of mimicking him.
Like I said before, there is a disclaimer in the start of the film mentioning that this film is not exactly a biopic. That itself was the first warning bell, that even if the film may try to enter the battle ring, it will fail to pull any punch, and that exactly what's happen. Just like the Manoj Prabhakar sting operation shown in the movie, even the film throws up accusations in the air, but fails to follow them up with enough guts. You can't help but have this feeling that this was a grudge match organised by real Azhar to take vendetta against a few of his former team-mates. So Ravi Shastri turns a womaniser who sleeps with actresses, Manoj Prabhakar is a jealous a-hole, Nayan Mongia is the real cheater (though the film is scared to even name him properly) and Kapil Dev (Varun Badola...a casting that actually made people laugh, though no fault of the actor) is a man who can't stand for his friends. Everything is portrayed in a way that turns all the grey shades of Azhar's character into white. Why even the fact he cheated his first wife for an actress was blamed on God! There is a twist in the interval that surprised me, and I thought it was really gutsy on the part of the makers. However, it turned out to be just another plot element to give a Jesus complex to the protagonist when the climax came. Though the film keeps on repeating that Azhar's wives play a huge role in the trial, in the larger scheme of things, none of them actually mattered other than adding minutes to the screen time. In the end, we leave the theatre with the feeling that this was a film made to show Azhar was innocent, and the rest of the country was wrong in defaming him. Even if the film was made with that intention, the filmy treatment and the dialogues will do little to help his case. The timeline is also confusing, Sangeeta had already married Azhar in 1996, but in the film it's shown they had just met then. Also when were slim mobiles launched in that period? Loopholes like this should have been addressed properly. And what was with those blatant embarrassing promotions of Macho, Gitanjali, Dr Ortho!
The usually brilliant Rajat Arora's dialogues are mostly hit or a miss here. As Sangeeta (Bijlani), Nargis Fakhri is miscast; her performance lacks conviction and stands out like a sore thumb. Also why did you have to make Lara Dutta's supposedly brilliant lawyer look like a fool in the end? And those unflattering closeups of her face could have been avoided!
What to do
There is a line in the film where Azhar says people forget all his achievements just because he made a couple of mistakes. That was the thread the film should have followed - a man on top of his game, compromising his character in a weak moment - instead of writing a narrative that completely whitewashes the character. Like last year's Talwar, the movie should have left the decision for the audiences to make whether Azhar was the wronged one or not. However, the makers lacked the guts to do so, making this a totally one sided match. But kudos to Emraan Hashmi who makes the proceedings believable!
3.0 out of 5
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