AT one point in the movie, shown as a moment of epiphany, Emraan Hashmi, playing Azhar, says, “Aaj kuch nahi bacha, par khush hoon. Aaj kuch farak nahi padta. Kyunki jab farak nahi padta zindagi mein, farak tabhi aata hai (I am left with nothing, but I am happy. Nothing matters today. When nothing matters, it’s only then change happens).”
The scene segues into a song and it strikes you then how much did it all indeed matter to Azhar that he chose this movie to lash out at several cricketers and the world at large. It’s as if he didn’t care.
The names of several characters in ‘Azhar’, which released Friday, leave no room for doubt. Ravi is a womaniser and jealous of Azhar’s rise to captaincy, Manoj comes across as a lout, Navjot is a joke and a coward, Kapil is a good man who temporarily loses his goodness but redeems himself, Rahul gets a character certificate from a bookie, albeit in a dismissive way, and Sachin’s credentials come through an Azhar dialogue.
Producer Ekta Kapoor’s lawyers must be very smart or perhaps, they are confident that the disclaimer at the start should do the job.
Poor Anil Kumble. The man who has always spoken highly of Azhar’s captaincy has been played by an unfit actor with a moustache. Poor Javed Miandad. The legendary batsman has been shown as a podgy character, failing in a sledging battle with Azhar.
“Mera naam Azhar hai, mujhpe ilzaam hai ki maine apne mulq ko bech diya (My name is Azhar, the charge against me is that I sold my country),” says Hashmi in the movie. ‘Azhar’ makes it clear that if the hero hasn’t sold his “mulq”, he has certainly sold his team-mates pretty well — with a childish spite.
The match-fixing as such, and Azhar’s culpability in it, has been resolved in an astounding manner. Apparently, Azhar took Rs 1 crore from a bookie so that no other cricketer in the team gets tempted, or gets sucked in. Then, he comes up with a match-winning knock, throws the money back at the bookie, and mouths some dialogues.
It’s corny, it’s silly, it’s insulting, it’s revealing in its own way, and as a result it’s a so-bad-it’s-funny kind of movie. It’s like reading a film magazine at a neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall barber shop, where you are tickled by the gossip.
Most of the characters are cardboardish. Most of them get B-grade dialogues. The grandfather, who was the main reason for Azhar taking up cricket and played here by Kulbhushan Kharbanda, gets a dialogue that is repeated at various points. In a Hyderabadi twang, he tells a young Azhar: “Tu mooh se bolenga toh kuch hi logaan sunenge. Balla bolenga toh saari duniya ko sunna padenga (If you talk, only a few people will listen. If your bat talks, the whole world will be forced to listen).”
Azhar gets most of the dialogues that are supposed to be memorable but are actually randomly placed, without much context, and end up being unwittingly hilarious. “Sikka donon ka hota hai — heads ka bhi, tails ka bhi. Lekin waqt us ka aata hai jo palat kar upar aata hai (The coin belongs to both — heads and tails. But the odds are with the one that comes on top).”
Entrusted with the unenviable job of mimicking Azhar’s magic wrists, Hashmi doesn’t even try too hard. His flick shot is a hit job. Hashmi is content with drooping his right shoulders and trying to walk like a ‘tapori’ with his collars up.
In the last couple of weeks, it was reported that actor Sangeeta Bijlani was getting worried about her portrayal in the movie. She need not worry much, as she isn’t shown as a home-breaker or a trigger for Azhar’s fall. In the movie, Sangeeta, as the character is called, even gets a dialogue to portray her goodness. “You are a married man, right? Tumne usko tumhara naam diya hai, dhoka mat dena (You have given her your name, don’t cheat her).” That’s when the popcorn spilled out.
Now, for the cricketers. Ravi is in the swimming pool, his team-mates lounging on deckchairs, when a bikini-clad woman walks past. “Aankhon mein Gandhari ji ki patti baandh loon (Shall I cover my eyes like Gandhari did)?” asks Ravi. Azhar quips, “Bandh le, tab toh sau marega (Cover them, you will hit a hundred).” Leering at the woman, Ravi says, “Abhi Ravi form pe nahi hai, Ravi is in other kind of form.”
Azhar is then left to fend off Ravi’s suspicious wife; Ravi is even shown leaving a hotel room, adjusting his zipper, followed by a starlet adjusting her saree.
”Cricket ho ya pyaar, yadi timing achi nahi hai toh kuch nahi hai (Whether it’s cricket or love, you need to get the timing right),” goes a Hashmi dialogue. Perhaps, the moviemakers got the timing of its release right — ahead of movies about Tendulkar and M S Dhoni — but they seem to have inadvertently caused more harm than good to Mohammad Azharuddin.
It’s difficult to see many coming out of the theatre thinking Azhar was innocent. But then, he did win an election in real life, mind you.