Azhar (2016) - Movie Review

An engaging multi-genre film about cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin

By Murtaza Ali Khan (@apotofvestiges)

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Azhar (2016), Movie Poster
Azhar (2016) - By Tony D'Souza
Azhar, directed by Tony D'Souza and written by Rajat Arora, is a sports biopic based on the life of Indian cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin. Produced by Balaji Motion Pictures and Sony Pictures Networks, Azhar stars Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Nargis Fakhri, Kunaal Roy Kapur, and Lara Dutta in the pivotal roles. The events in the movie are presented in a nonlinear fashion and from the perspective of Azharuddin. Just after scoring a century in his 99th Test Match, Azhar learns that he has been banned for life by the Indian cricket board on account of the former South African captain Hansie Cronje’s allegations that Azhar was the one to introduce him to the bookies. Having fallen from grace, suddenly he finds himself all alone. None of his former teammates are willing to come out in his support. But, he is hell-bent on regaining his lost prestige. So, a dejected Azhar requests his reluctant lawyer friend to take up his case. On the insistence of the lawyer friend after he reluctantly accepts the case, Azhar begins to narrate the larger-than-life tale of his meteoric rise and unceremonious fall as a celebrity cricketer.
Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin in Azhar
Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin in Azhar
Our Rating: 7.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.0
Genre: Biography | Sport
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Nargis Fakhri
Country: India
Language: Hindi | Urdu
Runtime: 130 min
Color: Color
Azhar proves to be an engaging multi-genre film that seamlessly blends elements of a sports movie, biopic, and court room drama into one. The acting is solid all around. Among the support cast, Lara Dutta and Kunaal Roy Kapur stand out—each playing the part of a lawyer but with contrasting personalities. While Dutta is feisty and arrogant, Kapur is rather composed and easy-going in his approach. Together they brilliantly construct the courtroom scenes. Of course, credit for this must also go to the director and the writer. As for Emraan Hashmi, it is quite heartening to see push himself out of his comfort zone. For a change, Hashmi ceases to be the ‘serial kisser’ that he is and painstakingly makes efforts to essay a complex caricature like Azhar’s, perfecting his mannerisms to a tee, albeit with the exception of speech and accent. While Nargis Fakhri is a sight to behold as Azhar’s ravishing muse Sangeeta Bijlani, Prachi Desai manages to hold her own as the cricketer’s devoted wife.
Prachi Desai as Mohammad Azharuddin's first wife Naureen
Prachi Desai as Mohammad Azharuddin's first wife Naureen
As a fictionalized account of the life and times of one of the most successful Indian cricket captains, Azhar serves as a colorful reminder of a bygone era of cricket and succeeds in highlighting the passion, euphoria and madness associated with the sport in a cricket crazy country like India. How the captain doesn’t merely represent a team of eleven players but a country of 100 crore people. How dearly a victory is cherished. How badly a defeat is regretted. How a nobody can become a hero overnight. How quickly a hero can become a villain. Azhar also touches upon the sensitive subject of match-fixing which continues to plague the game of cricket at different levels.  The movie also highlights the insecurity of modern sportsmen in competitive sports. But, as one would expect from a biopic of a famous living personality, Azhar lacks objectivity. All it tries to achieve is vindicate Azhar with little efforts made to show the other side of the picture.
Nargis Fakhri as Mohammad Azharuddin's muse Sangeeta Bijlani in Azhar
Nargis Fakhri as Mohammad Azharuddin's muse Sangeeta Bijlani in Azhar
Overall, Azhar, despite its flaws and inconsistencies, proves to be an engaging cinematic experience. How it succeeds in weaving together different genres is quite commendable. The movie's real highlight is its nonlinear narrative constructed using brilliant flashbacks thanks to some topnotch editing. While the movie doesn’t back down from taking swipes at Azhar's teammates such as Manoj Prabhakar, Ravi Shastri, Navjot Singh Sidhu and even Kapil Dev, it strangely eschews from touching upon Azhar’s bitter rivalry with Sachin Tendulkar or Sangeeta Bijlani’s much-talked about affair with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. The movie brings back some fond memories of Mohammad Azharuddin’s decorated career as a middle-order batsman. It also reflects upon his gradual shift from being a conservative middle-class Muslim to a celebrity compelled to living a bohemian lifestyle. Just like Azhar’s career and life, the movie also has its highs and lows, but there is not a moment in there that can be described as boring. Azhar is a movie that no cricket lover can afford to miss.

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