Movie Reviews

Sameer Brings Up  An Explosive Subject

Starring: Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Anjali Patil, Subrat Dutta, Seema Biswas

Directed by: Dakxin Chhara

Rating: ***(3 stars)

It is not easy to make  an overt political statement in our movies any more. Film about terror attacks are questioned  for their nationalistic loyalty.

Whose side are you on? Is  a question that makes a murky appearance  every time  a director condemns  sectarian violence. It happened to Anurag Kashyap in Black Friday and Nandita Das in Firaaq, to give two notable  examples. Sameer comes close to neither.

In Sameer first-time director Dakxin Chhara plays it relatively safe. While addressing the communal issue in Gujarat he masterminds a blast at a distance in Hyderabad. A  calamity that triggers off a macabre chain  of  events  that are so outlandish at times that they actually ring true.At other times, the narrative just meanders crazily.

The writer-director’s main source  of  inspiration is not so much terror attacks in and around India as  the fiction of Robert Ludlum and  Hollywood films such as  Martin Scorcese’s The Departed where  the protagonist is  used as a  mole in relatively life-taking political situations.

As usual the ever-dependable Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub instils an exceptional amount of credibility to his  part of a Muslim student who is picked by the ATS as a suspected terrorist and then subjected to the most horrific physical and emotional torture. Ayyub is every inch the persecuted Indian Muslim. His body language and  the  stricken look in his eyes haunt the plot in ways that the narrative is unable to handle .We feel his pain and humiliation with the same intensity as we did for Rajkummar Rao in Hansal Mehta’s Shahid.

Woefully, Ayyub’s character plunges from the grievously credible  to the outrageously unconvincing. The  narrative puts him into relatively authentic  situations and then drags him down with a series of thoroughly  unconvincing twists and turns that leave his character looking unfinished and unconvincing.What could have been a potentially vivid portrayal  of the isolated persecuted Indian Muslim remains at  best a half-baked characterization

Half-baked , brings us to the character of the bakery owner Shahid(Chinmay Mandlekar)   in Ahmedabad . He is seen to be a  victim of  a horrific conspiracy to provide statistical succour to  a numbers-driven government. By the time the truth about Shahid dawns on  the script it is too late to redeem his character or  the fluctuating moral compass of a film that swings from anti-terrorism to anti-establishment,  taking potshots on the way,at the  highest authorities without substantiating the scriptural blows with ample credibility.

The film makes a  better impact when it leans towards an emotional rather than a political statement. Seema Biswas as  the  bereft yet strong mother of a terror-accused owns  every scene that she gets. And the  underusedAnjali Joshi(why are movie makers so impervious to obvious talent?) as a  fearless investigative journalist tries to make sense  of  her under-written  role.Tragically even her character’s idealism is obnoxiously compromised at the end.

A major chunk of the footage goes to Subrat Dutta as the ATS chief. Dutta’s scowls through the role and gets very little support from actors who play his associates including a politician with plenty of  facial growth who seems to be the political mastermind.

Lamentably a lot of footage is squandered in showing the slum kids acting out street plays and fooling around with an innocence that pre-empts corruption . The scenes of terror and  carnage are borderline laughable.  The script has the seeds of  a terrific whodunit that gets lost in a  maze of righteous convulsions . The drama of the ‘dread’ comes across clumsily, amateurishly. We even hear some of the news readers on manufacturednewschannels speaking incorrect English as they read out grim reports on terror activities .

We all know news reporting is touched a new low. But not this low, please!

For all its glaring sins of excesses and hysteria Sameer dares to  go into a political theme that  spells trouble for the perpetrator. For this, the film needs to be commended.

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