Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Nargis Fakhri
Director: Tony D’Souza
Even though the former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin has been mentioning in almost all his interviews that the film ‘Azhar’ isn’t an effort to redeem himself in the eyes of millions of fans who have condemned him, there is no way you can ignore its dominance. This is precisely the reason you don’t feel for the tainted ex-skipper when you move out of the theatre. In fact, the only thought that lingers long after you walked out of the cinema hall is – why did the director title the film ‘Azhar’?
The film begins with a long disclaimer stating ‘Azhar’ is a fictionalized dramatic representation of incidents in the life of Mohammad Azharuddin, which only makes one wonder if the project is just a pretext to extol him.
Those who have followed Mohammad Azharuddin’s illustrious career are aware of the fact that by the late 80s, the top-order batsman who hailed from Hyderabad had already become a phenomenon in India.
While India had witnessed the brilliance of popular cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, it was also ready for another incredible cricketer Azharuddin.
The film, even as it highlights Azhar’s achievements, also puts forth the mental and emotional turbulence that he went through after his alleged connection in the match-fixing scandal. But it fails at doing justice to his match-fixing saga. For, it doesn’t unveil any unknown facts about his alleged involvement. Whatever we had read in the papers and watched in news bulletins is re-iterated in the film, which is also expected considering the fact that Azharuddin was involved with the film’s script right from the beginning.
Emraan Hashmi deserves to be lauded for giving a convincing performance as Azharuddin, but the film squanders his efforts by not being able to communicate what should have been the main focus of the story. It focuses so much on Azharuddin’s relationships and achievements that it fails to illustrate what the viewers wanted to watch - expose of the underbelly of the game of cricket – thereby making it one of the most disappointing biopics in the recent memory.
Emraan tries to emulate Azharuddin's mannerisms - as sporting an turned collar, slouch and wearing the tabeez quite prominently - all to ensure the viewers never forget him as the ex-cricketer.
Agreed, powerful dialogues keep the plot moving, connect viewers to the characters, and make the film memorable. But going by the dialogues that are given to Emraan, it seems the director doesn’t know the character inside and out, which is why developing his unique voice in the conversation isn’t easier. Dialogues like ‘Mauka kisi ka intezaar nahi karta, jo mauke pe karta hai, mauka usi ka hota hai’, ‘3 tarah ki jung hoti hain – pati patni ki, paani tael ki aur India Pakistan ki’, ‘Kachue kahaanbi mei jitate hain, alsi zindagi mei nahi’ look silly, and make the film unintentionally funny.
Before the release of the film, Azharuddin’s second wife Sangeeta Bijlani was upset over her representation in the biopic. When Emraan says, “Woh mera ghar todna nahi chahti thi. Aur mai ghar jaana nahi chahta tha”, it is obvious that she has neither been shown as a home-breaker nor as the key reason for Azhar’s fall. But Nargis Fakhri who plays the stylish Sangeeta is totally forgettable. However, Prachi Desai as first wife Naureen is flawlessly docile, demure and dainty. If you have been curious to know about the real cricketers of the time Azharuddin played, you will be disappointed. From using only the first names - Manoj, Ravi, Sachin, Kapil, Anil - to using actors that look nothing like them - they are unconvincing even as side-kicks. Actor Kunaal Roy Kapur’s semi bald look is as shocking as his accent.
Even the overly drawn out courtroom scenes, which focus on the 12-year-long battle that Azharuddin fought to contest the life ban on cricket looks so clichéd. Like any ordinary Bollywood film, ‘Azhar’ too brings out the stark contrast between the lawyers by focusing on their accent and style. But couldn’t the director focus more on intelligent arguments? Lara Dutta, who plays Azharuddin’s fan and the lawyer determined to slay Azharuddin, comes across as a misfit.
Viewers would have loved the film and found Hashmi’s inning as the former captain a lot more interesting only if the director hadn’t tried too hard to glorify Azhar as an underdog.