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Zwigato: A Slice Of Life Drama Told Gently
Directed by Nandita Das
Rating: ****(4 stars)
How does one deal with life when it serves you juiceless lemons? You won’t find Nandita Das and her co-writer Samir Patil juicing the tragic circumstances of her delivery-boy Manas(Kapil Sharma) for tears in this gently effective drama of fringe employment,produced by Applause Entertainment..
This well-cut nugget has no room for tears. Kapil’s Zwigato delivery-boy delivers a performance that is keenly observant of reality: the languorous paunchy body language , the endless rounds on two-wheelers, handling difficult insulting customers at work , an invalid mother and two children at home…Kapil brings the entire force of destiny down on his character’s shoulder without making him a cry baby.
There is a beautiful moment where Manas put his head on his ailing mother’s lap .His wife Pratima walks in, sees the mother and son together, a walks out quietly.
This is my favourite moment in a film that otherwise doesn’t care to create ‘moments’ for the audience to get empathetic. The tone of narration is muted and matter-of-fact. Nandita seldom, if ever, plays for effect.Even when there is potential for sentimentality she avoids any dramatic highs to get our attention.
Take the ending where Manas discovers a saddening secret about his wife’s nature of employment. This calls for some serious tantrums.Instead, Manas takes his wife on a mo’bike race with a train: something,we presume,she loved doing when life was relatively more comfortable and carefree.
It’s a beautifully sketched moment torn out of life’s most precious chapter; when everything seems bleak you find a light and celebrate darkness.
Although the film is a little heavy with statistics and numbers on the unemployed ,to her credit, Nandita Das doesn’t allow a pall of gloom to descend on her narration. There are no lengthy dialogues or pumped-up polemics to prod our conscience.Throughout, the atmosphere is light and hopeful even in the darkest moments when Manas encounters the nastiest of customers.
Prudently the director uses a lot of local Odia talent for secondary roles. In the lead Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami as a post-Covid couple struggling to keep their heads above the water, are pitch-perfect, Goswami more so than Sharma.
Ranjan Palit’s camera lenses Bhubaneswar as a town crowded by crisis but redeemed by hope. You may not be in a position to be optimistic. But this film shows us the path to a bleak but hopeful future.