Director: Tony D’Souza
Writer: Rajat Arora
Stars: Nargis Fakhri, Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Lara Dutta
Runtime: 2h 10min
Genre: Biography, Sport
Released: 13 May 2016
Synopsis: Biographical sports drama based on the life of former Indian international cricketer, Mohammad Azharuddin.
Review: If you go by the initial disclaimers ( yes, there are several, filling the entire screen) you will know that what you are about to watch is a ‘kaalpanik chitra’ (imaginary film) which is based on the ‘vibhinna ghatnaon’ (many episodes) of the life of a disgraced captain of the Indian cricket team; that any resemblance to any real event is ‘matra ek sanyog’ (a mere coincidence), and that it doesn’t intend to ‘hurt’ any ‘sanstha’ (organization) or ‘corporate’.
Why bother calling it ‘Azhar’ then? Why not Sachin or Ajay or Manoj or Ravi, or any of the other ‘imaginary’ players of the Indian cricket team, who were compatriots of the cricketer who faced a `life-time ban’ on the charges of match-fixing?
Using only first names as a dissembling tactic while referring to actual events and dates and places and times, is silly enough. Such is the extent of craven-ness on display that one of the most gripping cricketing stories of our time, featuring one of the most colourful captains of the Indian cricket team, is turned into a dull, dispirited tale.
‘Azhar’ was presumably made because it had such a controversial figure at its centre, arising out of the fixing-maches-for-money controversy itself, which had such a deep-seated impact on the game not just nationally but internationally.
You can also see that it’s been made to clear the real player’s name: a court did over-turn the ban but the whole process took so long that it became besides the point. The film remains strangely ambivalent about its hero while mouthing ‘seeti-maar’ dialogue about ‘desh’ and ‘qaum’: to have made the point the way it needed to be made, the film needed to have been braver and sharper. Alas, this bio-pic has no teeth. Oops, sorry, this ain’t no bio-pic, ‘coz, look momma, it names no names.
Not only is there a parade of Kapils and Sachins (no, gasp, Dev or Tendulkar), the eponymous hero is not, double gasp, Mohammad Azharduddin but `Azhar Mohd’ who just happens to be a Hyderabad lad, whose affections for a Bollywood starlet lead him to abandon his first wife, and whose accidental dealings with a bookie leads him into abyss.
This could have been a great cautionary tale about a great sport at a time when it was just becoming the arena it has grown into—full of big money and glamour, bigger endorsements and never-ending temptations : it is, instead, an inept ‘tamasha’, not very different from the stuff Bollywood churns out, the cricket just the superstructure for tired song-and-dance and melodrama, in living rooms and court-rooms.
Nope, this ‘Azhar’ doesn’t hit it out of the stadium.