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Kapil Sharma and Nandita Das deliver the ‘Odisha’ initiative – Beyond Bollywood

Though the film bats for dignity of labour, highlights unemployment, but a dull screenplay forces you to cancel your order and uninstall this unappetizing app.

Rating: 2 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

Kapil Sharma and Nandita Das! One a comedian, TV superstar, the other an intense actor and a maverick filmmaker. Even they never imagined this collaboration. How would this popular, Punjabi comedian fit into the artistic world of Das?

Necessity or destiny, one was curious to know what this duo would offer?  Firstly, Kapil Sharma sheds the comedian’s skin with the jovial Punjabi even braving to play a Jharkhandi working in Odisha. How many Bollywood films are set in the East?  There was Budhia Singh – Born to Run [2016].  It’s tough to recall more.

Director Nandita Das’s Zwigato [2023] was billed as a film that would provide some serious food for thought. Touched by the tireless efforts of delivery men, especially during Covid-19, Das conceived the Zwigato idea.  Manas Mahtao [Kapil Sharma] is a humble delivery guy working for a popular delivery app Zwigato in Odisha. [Swiggy and Zomato may be rivals, but if ever joined hands, Zwigato is a delicious brand name]. It’s a thankless and merciless job with Manas running from pillar to post to keep the customers happy. The job demands a lot from the humble family man, but there is barely any appreciation from the customers or the employers. His kids are more familiar with his Zwigato app than him. They want him to get a selfie clicked with happy customers that comes with its incentive. Leave aside a selfie, it’s hard to get a genuine thank you from customers. How many of us even look at the delivery guy in the face? Most just tend to snatch their food parcels.

Manas is not keen that his wife Pratima [Shahana Goswami] has to work, but the lady wants to support her family in every possible way. She even picks the odd job [masseuse]. She later lands a cleaner’s job in a city mall. Their struggles are a classic slice of life.

Though the film bats for dignity of labour and highlights unemployment, Zwigato doesn’t quite strikes you as a film by Nandita Das Initiatives. In stead, it seems manufactured as part of an Odisha initiative. A delivery guy is the ideal person to take you around the new Odisha.  The fancy malls, plush societies, temple, infrastructure cover the city (Bhubaneswar). But it can’t mask the social, class divide which was aggravated during the lockdown phase. However, it lacks the Covid atmosphere. Manas does wear the mask briefly but he is largely the only one seen with it in the entire film.

Das sensitizes us to the pressures of a delivery guy, but her film lacks an appetizing screenplay. It pains to use the word academic for a Nandita Das script. The film does spells out its intent, but it fails to engage beyond those few words/social commentary.  Maybe, the Odisha initiative also compelled Das and writer Samir Patil to inculcate a heavy dose of Odia in their screenplay. Of course, it is the locals who lead here. Different language, culture is welcome by a niche, but how would Kapil Sharma fans, presumably largely North Indians, take to this screenplay?

A serious, social drama does enable Sharma to get out of his comfort zone. Though not very convincing with the Bihari-accented Hindi, Sharma still makes a sincere effort. It maybe a tad shocking for his fans to see him in this avatar. However, it also helps Sharma atone for his few sexist, classist jokes on The Kapil Sharma show. Sharma sheds the comedian in him, and shows that if given a chance, he can pull off serious drama too.

Sharma shines in tandem with the terrific Goswami.  Adversities make or break a human. As her husband struggles to keep his job, it’s Pratima who keeps the family together. She doesn’t just look after her husband, kids, mother-in-law, but the lady also desires to be an independent woman. More than Manas, it’s the scenes involving Pratima that bring out the indignity of labour. Separate toilets for staff in mall, separate lifts in societies.  A customer’s daughter refusing to get massage from Pratima because she’s sweaty and dressed in a sari. These scenes highlight the social, class divide. Apart from the Odisha initiative, Naagin playing on TV serves as a marketing integration for Viacom.

The child artistes, too, put in a fine show. It’s not the cast, but the screenplay and dour direction that breaks the deal for Zwigato. The only time we sensed true Nandita Das imprint is in the final animated credits. Sadly, it is arguably the most underwhelming film by Nandita Das Initiatives. The dull screenplay is likely to see to customers (viewers) cancel their order and uninstall Zwigato. It’s hard to rate this delivery.

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