A boy struggling to overcome childhood trauma. A young man learning to find his place. And that thing between fathers and sons. ‘Zubaan’ is about all of these things, and a mixed bag of a movie : some of it comes together really well ; others strands are all over the place.
The journey of small-town boy Dilsher (Vicky Kaushal) to the world of super-wealthy builder Gurcharan Sikand (Chaudhary) is pockmarked by stealthy ambition : the most interesting aspect of Dilsher’s character is that he is capable of the unspeakable to achieve what he wants, and yet his moral compass isn’t completely broken.
A self-made man, who goes from being a ‘delivery boy’ to the owner of a multi-billion empire, this has to be the most complex role essayed by Chaudhari. He is a husband and father, and yet his family gives him no joy. The wife ( Malik) and son ( Chanana) are lost souls, looking for a way to connect to the walled-in man they live with.
The strongest portion is Dilsher’s boyhood, in which his ‘shabad’ singer father fills his life with sweet melody. And then the music dies, and Dilsher is left stranded, his ‘zubaan’ shackled. We know right from the start that he will find his voice, but his path– from the smiling boy in a ‘patka’ who loves music to the young man dealing with his demons—is inconsistent.
The script, which has a flash of Sanjeev Kumar-Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Trishul’, hands him a clunky romance. We never really know who Amira (Sarah Jane Dias) is, who floats about with her long locks curled oh-so-perfectly. When Dilsher and Amira are together, the film becomes completely improbable : just what are these two doing in the same space? It’s one thing to be entranced by the ‘differentness’ : him a ‘desi’ boy with a strong earthy Punjabi accent, her a dippy-hippy construct who likes to conduct dreamy wakes for a dead sibling. You see her trippin’ with her pals in some sand dunes, and it’s meant to be cool and hangin’ in a very 70s way, but ends up being annoyingly fuzzy.
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The core of it is in the way Kaushal and Chaudhari manouever around each other, testing each other, and when the director keeps it grounded, it comes off real and strong. But then everything gets filmi and wispy. The writing is patchy, with Kaushal not coming off as striking as he was in ‘Masaan’ : he’s good yes, he makes us watch, yes, but is already familiar. And the climactic passage is too stretched.
Singh clearly has a voice, though, and a talent for creating twisty drama. Pity the plot dips and the tone shifts, which results in the film speaking in parts, and being muzzled in the rest. But the music is lovely: in many places, I listened more than I looked.
Star cast of Zubaan: Vicky Kaushal, Manish Chaudhary, Sarah Jane Dias, Raghav Chanana, Meghna Malik
Director : Mozez Singh
Two and a half stars.