Review: Emraan Hashmi’s ‘Azhar’ appears 'fixed', Bollywood style

Why would cricketer Azharuddin seek redemption through a Bollywood canvas?

One where there’s little insight into his personality, or his genuine love for the game. What we get, instead, is a hotchpotch of media theories, stuff that we've had access to already, packaged together with glitzy song-and-dance. There are even lip-locks (those that were thankfully censored for the UAE audience), which are more in line with Emraan Hashmi's inglorious on-screen reputation, and less to do with Azhar's shy demeanour.

There's a lengthy lecture, just after the curtains roll up, clarifying that 'Azhar' is part true, and part fiction. So, every time Azhar's fellow cricketers are coloured as conniving and unethical, we aren't sure whether to take sides. The stroke, is ironic, considering Azhar himself is fighting to salvage his reputation. His women, however, are left unharmed. There are no home-breakers in here, only an obedient, shy wife and a glamorous, but strangely righteous Bollywood girlfriend, who end up batting for the same team during the grand finale.

It's this slant that becomes the movie's biggest failing.

You either make a biopic, or not. It can't be in-between.

A few minutes into the movie, Azhar starts narrating his story, but quits soon enough. He begins again, this time when his lawyer buddy, who should've had access to all this information anyway, insists he wants to hear the "full story". We listen in, unquestioningly.

Azhar's cricketing career wasn't an ordinary one. Much of the credit is showered on his doting grandpa, who predicted he would "play 100 test matches". He taught Azhar to stay cool, and hit back, not with his words but with his bat. So, he played, extraordinarily till he clocked 99 matches. Up until the match-fixing allegations put an end to his career.

The flashbacks shift voices mid-way, and is highly distracting. There are song interludes, as is becoming of any Bollywood movie, where they sneakily celebrate the hookups between cricketers and Bollywood dancing queens.

We witness the beginning of the court battle, but soon skip the eight-year long delay, and jump to the final verdict, without ever learning about Azhar's trials and tribulations. The narrative is evidently ambitious, trying to pack in Azhar's love sojourns and cricketing achievements in one master stroke, never quite lending authenticity or genuineness to either section.

Even the dialogues are repetitive, almost cross-checking if we paid attention the first time round. Whether it's about cricket being a game about an entire nation, or Azhar's Nana's test match dream or his wife Naureen's link to his name, the lines are on loop.

Emraan is harmless in white, and puts his collar up in true Azhar style, but he never manages to capture his persona. Azhar is a tough personality to crack on screen, we understand, but Emraan rarely gets it right. Among the women, Prachi is fairly OK as the docile wife, but Nargis is all pout. "She does no acting, but keeps putting on make-up," Azhar says in the movie, accurately summing up Nargis' contribution.

Sports drama 'Chak De India' had brilliantly captured the politics of hockey on-field and off it, unfortunately 'Azhar' refrains from doing either. It remains, but sadly a story of a fallen hero, "fixed" Bollywood style.

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