Rise and fall of a hero is an eternal story. From Yudhishthir to Icarus, they are the stuff of cautionary tales and moral lessons. Azhar rose like a dream. Three centuries in the first three matches. He made batting beautiful in his own way, created shots no one had played, using his wrists to create spaces where none existed. He created a standard for fielding that the rest of the Indian team took decades to match. He was a successful captain who had a spectacular fall because of allegations of corruption. His fall dented Indian cricket to an extent that it will never recover.
This is the stuff sports biopics are made of. Without even talking about Azhar romancing a bollywood heroine.
Sports biopics are full of cliches. Even Bhag Milkha Bhag couldn’t escape them. But Azhar takes that to a new level. It start with the old style melodrama of an elderly giving pearls of wisdom to Azhar as a child. Then those obvious lines keep echoing throughout the movie.
Then it moves to when Azhar is already being considered for Indian team. What happened to the training? What made him good? Which cricketer inspired him? Who taught him? How did he manage to train even though he was from a humble background? None of that seems to matter. Azhar was remarkable as being one of the first people from non-cricket backgrounds/areas to become a great cricketer. (After Kapil Dev, of course). That rise to greatness would have been an awesome story. Even a cliche of a training montage would have been great. Alas, it is completely overlooked in search of melodrama.
And the “greatest” kind of melodrama, the TV soap, is what a good chunk of the movie is dedicated to. It is an Ekta Kapoor film after all, and Prachi Desai is comfortable being an अबला नारी and not much more. She has no personality worth speaking of, but then nor does Azhar. Or Sangita.
The Sangita chapter could have been an opportunity to cast a grey shade, but seems to portray Azhar in the best possible light. It makes for poor drama. The film even tries to minimize the wrong by showing other cricketers being dogs.
Other cricketers. Sigh. Consider the period he played in. Shastri, Shrikanth, Kapil, Siddhu, Jadeja, Sachin, Kambli, Kumble, Srinath, the list of great and/or interesting players is so long. But they are unrecognizable. Reduced to being caricatures, and uninteresting ones at that. Nothing they say seems likely to come from the mouth of an actual human. (Well in case of Siddhu that’s accurate to reality, of course). All of them also happen to be deeply flawed, while Azhar lacks any blemish. Realistic, right?
The guy who gets the most attention though is Manoj. Yup, Manoj Prabhakar is the cricketer this movie focuses on. While reiterating that Azhar was innocent, they seem to indicate that Manoj was, indeed, corrupt. In fact he is the villain of the film. With a villain as boring as Manoj Prabhakar, how lame would the hero be?
Very lame. Imraan Hashmi seems to be trying hard, but he doesn’t remind me of Azhar at any point. His hand stuffed in the pocket reminded me more of Mohnish Bahl from Hum Saath Saath Hain than the awkward Azhar I remember. The character lacks any juice. What makes him great (cricket) is taken away, and what remains is a mopey guy who feels cheated by the world. Everyone is dirty, except him. But most of all I criticize the film for failing to use the line “the boys played well”.
Well, that brings us to the trial. Trials in 80s with the “MeLord” “मुलज़िम” & the “ताज़िराते हिंद” sound more realistic than the trial here. Lara Dutta as the prosecution lawyer kindles a spark of energy, but why is a Londoner the prosecution lawyer? And Azhar’s defense lawyer is reduced to a buffoonish, cartoonish figure with a weird accent. No Reddy I know speaks like that. And no person behaves like that. The arguments this buffoon uses to win the case make as little sense as the rest of the film. And the court melodrama on top of all the other kinds of melodrama made it hard for me stay in the seat.
Every film needs a hero. But the hero needs to bear a resemblance to real life. Especially if the hero is from real life. Azhar accepted that he took money from bookies. Make him the hero that falls, make him the hero that falls and then gets up. But when you make him the hero, and at the expense of everyone else, you create a caricature.
No one likes paying to watch an advertisement.