Azhar has been the most anticipated film of recent times, simply because it is based on the life of India’s most controversial cricketer. But the film is not a biopic: a disclaimer at the start mentions it isn’t a biography or a documentary on Mohammad Azharuddin’s life. Azhar is part-fact, part-fiction.
The movie begins in 2000 with the match-fixing scandal which ended Azhar’s career, and moves back and forth. In flashbacks we are taken back to many significant events of his life, such as his early days in his hometown Hyderabad where his grandfather predicted he would play 100 Tests, the beginning of his international career, his marriage to Naureen, his becoming the India captain, his affair with Sangeeta Bijlani and his interactions with bookie M K Sharma.
There are two important questions that are likely to be raised. One, with this movie having been made with Azhar’s consent, is it an attempt to glorify him and show him as a wronged person? Two, with so many real-life characters, could some of them take offence?
Azhar is not at any level an attempt to glorify the cricketer; in fact, given the hero-worshipping and over the top sentiments that audiences can sometimes be prone to, this movie is a neutral take on Azhar’s life. One must compliment the makers of the film for not shying away from showing Azhar in negative light whenever the need arises.
The second aspect could have been tricky. The two names that could’ve created controversy are Azhar’s ex-teammate Manoj Prabhakar and Bijlani (his second wife). As for Prabhakar, there is nothing in this movie which the public doesn’t know about, be it the sting operation which is shown in the beginning of the film or his “infamous” go-slow century against West Indies in Kanpur in 1994 (a game India lost by 47 runs) that has been recreated in the movie.
As for Bijlani, there seems to be nothing in this movie that should concern her: for all ends and purposes, she has been portrayed in a positive light and not as the vicious “home-breaker” that she may have feared. Given that her character was developed on what Azhar narrated, credit must be given to him.
After delivering two box office non-performers in Blue and Boss, director Tony D’Souza has managed to make a reasonably decent movie. He has a very well-written script from Rajat Arora. The highlight of the movie is the several paisa-vasool dialogues from Arora.
As for the performances, Emraan Hashmi is good, especially in the second half; a scene where ghosts of his past come back when he lifts a cricket bat is quite powerful. While it would be incorrect to look for Azhar in Hashmi’s batting, it must be said the actor does a reasonable job. Prachi Desai has done well as Naureen, particularly in the emotional scenes. Nargis Fakhri, despite her limited acting talent, is not all that bad as Sangeeta Bijlani. Lara Dutta and Kunal Roy Kapoor as the lawyers are alright in their respective roles.
The first half has some scenes which could have been better developed. One such scene is when Azhar responds to a Pakistan cricketer (shown in the film as Javed Miandad) asking him to change allegiances by saying “Mera naam Mohammad hai”. The sequence ends abruptly, and given that Azhar was a special cricketer, one would have liked greater depth in the scene.