Movies ...

Never nazar andaaz one’s humanity – Beyond Bollywood

Writer Rishi Virmani, director Vikrant Deshmukh’s slice of drama is so endearing. A masterclass from Kumud Mishra, Abhishek Banerjee, and Rajeshwari Sachdev.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

He hands over the house key to a thief who he met two days ago. The thief is naturally puzzled. Why would this old man place so much trust in him?  The old man laughs and says smilingly, “When the whole world distrusts you, then surely this thief wouldn’t disappoint the only person who has trusted him blindly”

Not just Ali [Abhishek Banerjee], but as a viewer you’re perplexed too. The blind man’s blind trust in this thief is stunning to say the least. Well, that is Sudhir [Kumud Mishra] for you. The wise old blind man leaves you stunned with plenty of pearls of wisdom. Later in this journey, he meets his childhood crush Mohini [Rajeshwari Sachdev] in Mandvi [town in Kutch district of Gujarat].  He wants to feel her beauty but Sudhir seeks her permission. A bewildered Mohini reminds him that he doesn’t need one.  Sudhir replies, “No, you are a married woman.”

Stunned again. Jeez, where do you find men of such impeccable character? How can Ali cheat him? How can Mohini not permit Sudhir to feel her beauty? Actors play characters, but only gentle souls like Kumud Mishra are eligible to play a noble character like Sudhir. The very name [Sudhir] is an ode to a late artiste and his ilk [henchmen] that was largely underrated by the industry then. In the rat race of the world, it is very easy to nazar andaaz (downplay, miss, reject) an individual. Very few have the wisdom to gauge true character in a human being. Remarkably, Nazar Andaaz [2023] is not so much about Sudhir. It is about crores of abled civilians failing to recognize the humanity in people like Ali, Bhavani [Divya Dutta], the trusted house-help of Sudhir.

The noble blind man has inherited his guru’s riches. Now that he is in the twilight years of his life, Sudhir is confused about his will. He has two names on his mind. Both Ali and Bhavani believe that they are the rightful heir. Before he makes the final decision, Sudhir takes them to his home town Mandvi.  The road trip, and the subsequent events, enlighten not just Ali and Bhavani, but also the viewers. 

Writer Rishi Virmani and director Vikrant Deshmukh’s Nazar Andaaz [2023] is no social commentary, but it gracefully appeals the society to not write off anyone instantly. Remember Ramayana was written by a saint [Valmiki] who was earlier a dacoit. Ali is a pickpocket. His acts ought to be condemned but not for life, if the man is willing to change for the good. 

Bhavani is no cheat, but she believes that all her years of service make her worthy to inherit Sudhir’s riches. Though yeomen service, but she, too, is occupied by a certain greed. Despite their flaws, their character names are a reminder of the characters that they can choose to be.

Ali is a name that Sudhir has only given him two days ago.  Abhishek Banerjee effortlessly slips into the skin of his character, charming us with the typical yet refreshing Mumbai ruffian tone.  Not until they hit the road to Mandvi, you are still suspicious of Ali.  He’s likable for his conduct in his new found life. Few days ago, he struggled to get one time-meal. Now this new gifted life feels like luxury.  Ali’s enlightened though by the pearls of wisdom that Sudhir shares.  Even Ali can’t help but get sentimental as he shares his own grief. The most poignant one is the maternal conversation that the trio have in Sudhir’s vacant Mandvi home.  It all started with a simple question by Sudhir, “How does a mother look?”

The casting director has slowly risen through the ranks and established himself as one of the most versatile actors.  Not just the character, but Banerjee too grows as an actor.  Not any con, but having lost a mobile phone recently, this reviewer is naturally disturbed at the sight of Ali flicking a bystander’s mobile phone. Thankfully, it is the last theft by the pickpocket. We forgive Ali and also the thief who stole this reviewer’s phone.

Divya Dutta is an experienced artiste. Often flawless, she perhaps goes slightly overboard here. Nevertheless, she is still a joy to watch in these earthy characters.

Kumud Mishra is a late bloomer. He has delivered one strong performance after another. Though a big call, but this Nazar Andaaz showing is perhaps his best effort. It would be unfair to compare this performance with similar great acts like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman [1992].  Mishra’s blind man avatar is seldom seen before, at least in Bollywood. Often such leading characters are played by pretty faces who sport black shades and a still face.  Virmani, Deshmukh and Mishra have been sensitive in giving a more realistic portrayal of a blind man.  Sudhir doesn’t need black shades.  “When you are totally blind from birth, what is the need to open the eyelids” he tells a quizzical Ali.  The closed eyes, beaver-like expression mirrors that of many real blind men. Mishra merrily embraces the stressed look but exudes positivity. through his words, body language. This blind act is a sheer virtuoso.

Rajeshwari Sachdev only has a cameo but she leaves you mesmerized as Mohini. How this Punjabi aces these accents is breath taking.  Note, she was also born to a South Indian mother.  Maybe she is a polyglot. You just can’t take your eyes off Sachdev the moment she arrives onto the screen. From her Khandvi [delicacy], inner beauty to her sweet words, Sachdev delivers a masterclass.

Whilst the term ‘visual beauty’ goes against the ethos of this story, but unheralded cinematographer Rakesh Singh adds magic via his visual storytelling.  The Sachdev introduction scene where she is stunned to find her childhood buddy Sudhir at the door, and later the latter feeling her beauty through his palm is a sight to behold.  Singh captures the beauty, the emotion, the atmosphere so gorgeously. He shows great quality in the pivotal poignant scene in the pre-climax. Phew, director Vikrant Deshmukh his colorist also add a ‘starry’ touch that makes the entire run on the Rann of Kutch so poignant yet enchanting. It is also the moment when Sudhir chooses to open his eyes. Such fine arts!

Largely well written, Nazar Andaaz has the odd moments where the viewer is briefly disengaged.  The early action when they their begin their road trip to Mandvi on a three-seater scooter is a tad disengaging. Mind you, they are not bad scenes, it’s just that they pale in comparison to the many delightful ones. Life has more downs than ups. The few dull moments don’t undermine the larger good that Nazar Andaaz stands for. It’s a shame though that this film is listed as a 2022 release, but only arrives on an OTT platform nine months later, with virtually no publicity then and now.  Nazar Andaaz this hidden gem, and you miss out on humanity.

Nazar Andaaz is streaming on Netflix. Video review to come below soon.

You may also like