Azhar is the 2016 biopic about India’s most successful cum controversial cricket team captain Mohammed Azharuddin played by Emraan Hashmi. He was accused of match fixing in three different matches, with rich bookies who asked him to underplay, thus leading to his ban from playing cricket. This movie is about how he challenged the ban by fighting back with his lawyer and friend Reddy (Kunaal Roy Kapoor) As a fan of cricket of myself, I know the major players from the fraternity. The controversies related to Azharuddin took place before my time so I was not completely aware of all that. This movie could be a big surprise to both parties; the ones who believe that Azhar is innocent and the ones who are against him. As a neutral person, the experience was intermediate for me. Azhar is a well made film but factual inaccuracies and circumstances will make you question the authenticity. Not to mention, the making and subsequent release have been an act of courage by the filmmakers.
The question is why? What were the conspiracies?
Firstly, this is a well directed film thought it has all the elements that is seen in a typical Bollywood structure; colorful sequences, a melodramatic love-story, slapstick comedy, two abnormally fair heroines (one of whom can’t act worth darn) and unnecessary song sequences. Overall, pacing is very fast and the parallel structure, which shows the present and flashback running as per the narratives in the present, is up to the point. The editor did a fantastic job here. Each story-line puts the audience at the edge with anticipation and technically, the film stood out well. Azhar is shown as the hero facing a downfall in every way. He was raised by an ambitious grandfather who taught him how to dream big. He receives teachings from him on how to reply with his performance and to play such that 1 billion population can go and sleep with happiness instead of letting them succumb into tears. Azhar is shown as a patriot and a strong captain, who guarantees victory as he has god’s name attached to him. Emraan Hashmi shines in this film. He might not resemble Azharuddin and he still needs to work on his voice modulation, but his performance is adept. He has managed to rip off Azharuddin’s body language, style, mannerisms and accent. He pulled several clever narratives with ease, notably three forms of famous wars, one of which is India vs Pakistan match. During the crisis we could feel his fury, frustrations and guilt. When we see him in his silent phase, we can’t make out what really is going in his head and is he is saying the truth or not. After being labelled as the “serial kisser”, “chocolate boy” or “softcore pornstar” (exaggerated by critics), this is the kind of role that was needed to enhance the fact that there is ample amount of talent in him. After watching Awarappan, I knew that he deserved to be known more for his performance. This role could exploit his abilities but is it the role he was supposed to do? Azharuddin is still a controversial figure and the fact that this movie hailed him as a hero is still a major setback. If this movie works, then it is due Emraan’s stupendous portrayal. Lara Dutta could have been the most badass character and that is how she was introduced. Her expressions and tough gestures were adroit but then she was subdued towards the end as she was limited to her status as the no:1 fan of Azharuddin. Kunaal Roy Kapoor delivered a standard performance. Prachi Desai didn’t let go of her gracefulness. Either way, we will love Naureen and feel sorry for her. She was simple girl who loved Azhar unconditionally. Azhar didn’t deserve her and as per his words, he was being punished by god for betraying her. I just don’t get why Bollywood is simply going after pretty faces like Nargis Fakhri. Just like rockstar, Sangeetha Bijlani is a very complicated character with a past to haunt her. Nargis couldn’t pull it off and before Emraan’s charisma and Prachis’s controlled acting, she looked like a Barbie doll. The background music and songs reminded me of an old-school Bollywood macho film, but then the initial disclaimer accentuated that this film is not a biopic.
Therefore, the manner in which he was portrayed might be challenged. Like I have mentioned earlier, as a someone with neutral views, I believed what was depicted on-screen. After watching this film, I went on to do more research on his life. The release of the film was called out by the CBI who claimed that Azharuddin has a criminal mind. The factual inaccuracies have been challenged, notably on how his innocence is proved. Most matches that was shown took place at a different interval in real life. All of his colleagues are simply mentioned by their first names; Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri. Judging by the way cricketer Manoj Prabhakar was depicted, Azharuddin was extracting his revenge. And, Ravi Shastri is a womanizer??? He was touring with his wife, who went looking for him and, in a despicable comic timing, Ravi was shown coming out of a room putting on his pant zipper and a woman adjusting her saree follows him. My mouth dropped after watching that scene and Shastri himself despised it. Kapil Dev was shown in a good then bad, back to being good character. Everyone, except Azhar was shown shown in a bad light. Out of everyone, other than Naureen, the one character I felt sorry for is Meera, the prosecutor.
The movie ends with the quote “this is my story. believe it or not? That is left up to you“. Now that Azharuddin is acquitted of all charges, the instances mentioned might be true or false. That is left to the audience to judge in a way, as much as we challenge the accuracy. But, watch Azhar to witness a different flavor from Emraan.
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