Every parent probably wants their kid to be a child wonder. But can a parent make a child wonder out of their kid if they are not smart enough? Sudhir Mishra‘s Serious Men tries to answer this question while commenting on the conservative caste and class divide in our society. Based on writer Manu Joseph’s book of the same name, Serious Men is a film that touches upon many related issues, sometimes with satire and other times with a slight melodrama.
“Talent ka koi color Nahi Hota,” says Ayyan to his wife, Oja Mani (Indira Tiwari). This discussion proves that while Ayyan is an underprivileged man who chooses to lies and deception to fulfill his motives, he believes that talent is not just the privileged class of society. Just like his other characters, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is as true as Ayyan Mani. The actor has no match when it comes to his skills in playing middle-class characters with out of the box capabilities. Truly he proves to be a Jack of all trades, Master of it all!
Indira Tiwari in the role of a mother, who is fierce and yet extremely shy, is a delight to watch. She effortlessly transforms from a docile wife to a loud woman who doesn’t shy away from even abusing her husband when she sees that he is deceiving her.
Aakshath Das is a child genius indeed. His performance in the first 20 minutes of the film individually stands out. Aakshath convinces you that he is the blessed child of Goddess Saraswati in one part of the film. He is just a regular kid who struggles to remember things taught to him in another.
Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), from a low caste, works as an assistant to a higher caste director (M Nasser) of the National Institute of Theory and Research. While he is just an assistant, he has an intelligent brain and wants to guarantee his kid has a bright future. To do that, he crafts a tale of lies and deceit. He says, “Life main Kuch na Karne ke Liye four generations lagti hai.” He calls himself 2G, i.e., second generation, and uses his sharp mind to help his 10-year-old son Aadi Mani (Aakshath Das) become a 4G, the 4th generation.
Ayyan Mani devises a plan and presents his son as a miracle. Aadi is the school genius who makes his teachers feel ashamed about their lack of knowledge. He talks about producing oxygen in the human body by infusing green pigment and making people hopeful of generating energy from neutrons. He gives empathetic speeches about child laborers working in chocolate factories and, at the same time, solves complicated Math sums. But, didn’t we tell you about Ayyan’s plan of presenting his son as a miracle? Now the question is how. He makes the little kid mug up long sentences and repeat it in front of people while helping him with a Bluetooth device if the kid finds himself in a spot. Ayyan’s plan works, and Aadi becomes the talk of the town. And here’s where the problem creeps in. Ayyan has to pay for all his lies. Or does he not?
Like the 2011 book, which won many awards, the film is an intriguing piece of art. The director has worked in portraying the beautiful characters penned by Manu Joseph on the screen. The scenes compel the audience to look at people beyond boxes they have been boxed in. Sudhir Mishra aptly uses his expertise in dealing with the Indian society’s socio-political issues in the film. The class divide, caste system, domestic violence, and poverty are not just the story’s plot points but also presented as essential characters. And yes, without offending anyone.
Ayyan, who has seen his ways’ error, is threatened by the politician (Sanjay Narvekar), who knows of his truth, that Adi should continue to hoax and still talk in their favor. However, his boss Dr Acharya (Nasser), who is now more considerate about Ayyan’s plight after knowing his backstory, suggests a way to escape from the locality.
During the function, Adi, who is usually guided by his father through Bluetooth in his hearing aid, is told by Ayyan to speak whatever he wants. Adi comes to the mike and exclaims that he doesn’t know anything and that whatever he says was told him by his father. Though he tells the truth, the audience who have been so comfortably rested in his lies, thinks he is just humble, while Ayyan is seen smiling through his tears in relief.
In the last scene, we see that Ayyan, his wife Oja, and Adi live in a beachside village in Kerala. Adi is going to a local school, as we see Oja picking him up and going to the beach, where Ayyan is present, now without his mustache. Oja tries to convince Ayyan to ask Adi to concentrate more on his studies and join her in her job. Ayyan dismissively tells her that he ‘can’t deal with raw minds’ – a line that he had taught Adi to say earlier, whenever the kid faces a curious person. Ayyan is then seen walking towards the sea, as Adi comes running and holds his hand, while he asks what Ayyan plans to do with the money given by Anuja aunty.
What Does It Mean?
Though Ayyan may have never got the life he planned for by Adi’s deception, the scam accidentally helped two other beings, each representing the ideas that Ayyan wanted to defeat. Dr. Acharya, who presents the upper-caste, got his funding thanks to Adi’s advocation of his project.
Through Adi’s last throwaway final line, it is clear that the function went well, and Anuja and her politician father – both representing the rich and affluent – got green light for their project (Anuja also might have gotten the ticket from her father’s party). So while Dr Acharya helps him rehabilitate elsewhere, Anuja gives him money – a reward for making their redevelopment project a success.
As for what happened to Ayyan, there are two thoughts here. The less excellent idea is that his mental condition is cluttered with what happened in the past few months. The second idea is that unlike his wife, Ayyan is not ready to be conventional to his new living style. He is again planing a scam to get out of his lesser privileges, perhaps using the same money that Anuja gave him. Considering we hear the same song “Raat Hai Kaala Chaata“, that was played in the beginning of the film, in the end too, we can guess life has come a full circle for Ayyan, and now he is gearing to start it again.
Serious Men is currently streaming on Netflix with a 6.9/10 rating on IMDb. Honestly who cares for ratings if its a Nawazuddin Siddiqui film right? It is definitely a must-watch movie.