'Cowardice to show poor only as needy'

Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra was clear when he set out to adapt Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' for the screen that he would not mould its protagonist in a poor-man stereotype, giving the character agency as well shades of grey. Adapted from the author's 2010 novel, the film chronicles the story of an ambitious underachiever Ayyan Mani, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who capitalises on his son's newfound fame as a boy-genius Adi (Aakshath Das) to improve his family's fortunes.

Through its inspirational central protagonist Mani, a Tamil Dalit in Mumbai, the film examines caste discrimination, upper-class privilege and how he turns the system, which oppressed people for generations to his advantage.

In an interview, Mishra said he saw Mani, played with charming restless energy by Siddiqui, as a man who is two steps ahead of the world.

"What has Ayyan Mani done? He has taken the educational system and made his son mug up something which the teachers are not smart enough to catch. He has used the system. He is grey. It is a form of cowardice not to give the poor this agency," said the filmmaker.

With 'Serious Men', Mishra said that he did not want to make a film which would ignite a discussion among the privileged only because the poor people were viewed with sympathy and not as equally flawed beings.

"To only show them as this crawling and earnest people who look up to others and crying slowly as they drown in some quicksand was not what I wanted to do. That is the bad art film you drink wine and discuss at film festivals," he added.

The filmmaker found Mani as a 'fascinating, complicated, humane' character, the one who refuses to play by the book.

"Mani is a quick learner, dynamic and aware of the frauds the upper class pulls off as well as their brilliance. The film sees the world through his eyes."

Next Story
Share it