Directed by: Sudhir Mishra
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Yogesh Yadav, Nassar, Aakshath Das, Sanjay Narvekar, Shweta Basu Prasad
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Family
Release Date: 02 October 2020
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Original Network: Netflix
Tormented with his ‘under-privileged’ societal status, a father capitalizes on his son’s newfound fame as a boy-genius. Little does he realize that the secret he harbors will destroy the very thing he loves the most.
Serious Men is an Indian Hindi-language comedy-drama film directed by Sudhir Mishra. The film is based on the book of the same name by Manu Joseph. Nawazuddin Siddiqui will be seen playing the lead role in the film. The film is produced by Bombay Fables and Cineraas Entertainment. The film was released on Netflix on 2 October 2020.
The story follows Ayyan Mani, a middle-aged man working as an assistant to a astronomer at the National Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai. He lives in slum with his wife and a son. Furious at his situation in life, Ayyan develops an outrageous story that his 10-year-old son is a science genius – a lie which later gets out of control.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Manu Joseph. The makers of the film decided to cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the main lead for the movie in June 2019. Principal photography of the film commenced in September 2019.
The film was released on Netflix from 2 October 2020.
Serious Men: Movie Trailer
Serious Men: Movie Review
Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s new Netflix film is one of the finest of 2020, furious and fabulous
While Netflix India has been busy projecting Radhika Apte as some sort of mascot, it should really have been paying attention to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an actor who has consistently delivered top-tier content for the streamer. His latest, Serious Men, completes a hat-trick of Netflix hits for the actor, after Sacred Games and Raat Akeli Hai. More of this, please.
Based on a novel by Manu Joseph, the film tells the story of Ayyan Mani, a Dalit personal assistant to a Brahmin scientist. After a lifetime of being called names such as ‘moron’ and ‘imbecile’, he decides to channel his anger at the world by conning it. Ayyan begins a journey of upward social mobility by convincing everybody that his 10-year-old son is, in fact, a genius.
It’s interesting to observe how director Sudhir Mishra’s perception of the common man has changed since Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro in 1983. While the two protagonists of that film were naive do-gooders with modest ambitions, the following four decades have made the common man angrier, it would seem, deserving of an equally enraged movie.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui completes a hat trick of Netflix hits. His latest, a sharp satire directed by Sudhir Mishra, is one of the finest films of the year.
Ayyan is a complicated fellow. On one hand, his fury is justified — he has been systematically oppressed by a nation that would prefer he remain at his socio-economic station — but on the other, he is hard to like. Serious Men is, in many ways, a jail-break movie. Ayyan is trapped in the metaphorical prison of Mumbai, the towering high-rises surrounding his chawl like bars on a cell.
As wickedly funny as the film is, and as perversely enjoyable Ayyan’s schemes are to watch, Serious Men would not have worked if there had not been a collective rage directed at the establishment. It’s a movie that captures what it is like to live in India, circa 2020. It’s a time capsule that, like so many satirical movies that were released in the post-Emergency era, captures the mood of the nation.
This is a stunning film, one of those rare experiences where it seems as if every department — costumes, sound, lighting — is in a jazz-like groove. This is ironic, considering how the film is also about how everybody these days seems to exist in echo-chambers.
While bigger stars boast about physical transformations and surviving six-month boot camps, Nawaz effortlessly slips into his characters without so much as a change in hairstyle. How he is able to seemingly alter his physical stature, simply through body language, continues to baffle me. Here is a man who is neither diminutive nor imposing, but through sheer performance can convincingly pull off both.
Serious Men gives Nawaz the opportunity to exercise both the submissive and the dominant aspects of Ayyan’s personality. That’s the thing about class structures — you’re rarely at the top or at the bottom. There is always someone above you, waiting to pounce, and someone below, prepared to be pounced at.
It takes four generations, Ayyan sermonizes to his wife in an early scene, for a man to summit the social ladder. He tells her that they belong to the second generation, which he likes to call ‘2G’. It is a generation that is incapable of having a good time. Their child will belong to the third generation — highly educated and capable of pondering life’s bigger questions, like why some condoms have dots on them. And his child, Ayyan’s grandchild, will have nothing to work for, and indeed, no reason to work.
But the odds, Ayyan realises, are stacked against him. Society has set up roadblocks around every corner for men like Ayyan, almost deliberately, it seems. And so, Ayyan figures, he must take short cuts. Why must he play by the rules of a system that values neither him nor his son?
Serious Men is also a critique of the broken Indian education system, as rote as the curriculum it prescribes, and a takedown of that age-old Indian tendency of parents projecting their unfulfilled dreams upon their children. After a point, it seems like Ayyan isn’t continuing his grand con for the sake of his son’s future, but to vent out his own frustrations. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. One false step and Ayyan becomes irredeemable.
But Mishra and his team of four writers don’t put a foot wrong. In an industry that routinely finds it difficult to produce tonally consistent films, and often views poverty through a romanticised lens, Serious Men is sharp from start to finish.