Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Nargis Fakhri, Rajesh Sharma, Lara Dutta, Kunaal Roy Kapur
Direction: Tony D’Souza
Mohammed Azharuddin’s real-life story has all the essentials of a Bollywood potboiler and, yet, the film is a squandered opportunity.
Cricket is not just a game in India, especially at a time when the likes of Azharuddin where playing the game, the players and the game evoked a national fervour like no other. When the first of the match-fixing scandals broke in India, it was a heartbreak we never recovered from, cricket was no longer about playing for a nation – our idols had fallen from their celestial heights. They had not just fallen from grace; they had betrayed a nation that revered them like demi-gods.
One of India’s most successful and loved cricketers, Mohammed Azharuddin, was at the epicenter of this racket. The unassuming former captain’s integrity had been challenged and overnight, from being lauded for his many feats, he was dubbed a traitor. There are so many intriguing elements in the original story: not just of his journey as a cricketer but also about his personal life. Azhar had divorced his wife of nine years and the mother of his two sons to marry model-turned-actress Sangeeta Bijlani, more famous then as Salman Khan’s ex-girlfriend. All this drama and the film manage to dilute it and present a watered down version.
While all the aspects of this story are presented to us, the execution falters repeatedly. It is as if the filmmakers were in such a hurry that they couldn’t invest enough time to do justice to the narrative.
Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) doesn’t come across as a suave charmer and yet, the self-effacing loyal husband quite readily falls for a sultry diva. While you see a little of the initial guilt, you never really see the conflict play out or even how the dynamics unfolded once he decided he wanted to move on from his marriage.
Being the other woman is never easy and more so, if you are trying to portray her as someone who is genuinely nice and doesn’t mean to be a home wrecker. We all know that Nargis Fakhri (playing, Sangeeta Bijlani’s part) isn’t quite equipped to play a layered role. Why then entrust her with delivering such a complex part?
I hate how Naureen (Prachi Desai) is shown to have no agency at all. Did she not see the reports of the affair that was being splashed across gossip columns and magazines? Why did she never confront her husband? Did she later make peace with what had transpired between them? What is with the ambiguity?
Even the scandal bit is handled in such a superfluous manner. Did some of the players have a score to settle with him? Did he buckle under pressure and later have a change of heart? Was accepting the money actually his master plan all along? There are a whole lot of unanswered questions.
What is most disappointing is the way the court scenes play out – they lack drama and the intensity that most courtroom dramas intrinsically do. If the director has no qualms about taking cinematic liberties while presenting the rest of the story why dial it down during the actual confrontation between the defendant and the prosecution.
It is to Emraan Hashmi’s credit that he has approached his part in all sincerity. He rises above the mediocrity of the script to essay a commendable performance. Emraan makes ‘Azhar’ watchable.
Azhar’s is an intriguing story, if only the film was as engaging.