Producer: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Sony Pictures Network
Writer: Rajat Aroraa
Claps: Emraan Hashmi
Slaps: Expecting some startling revelation about Mohammad Azharuddin's life? Then sorry guys, you are in for some disappointment!
What's New: A film based on one of India's most controversial cricketer
Popcorn Refill: Interval
Plot: The film begins with a lengthy disclaimer stating that it is not a biopic and merely borrows few incidents from Mohammad Azharuddin's life to make a dramatized piece of entertainment. And that's where we get a slight hint of what's in store of us- two hours ten minutes of a disgraced hero's journey who rose like a phoenix from the ashes, in a typical Bollywood potboiler style!
When Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) is asked about his retirement plans by a journalist during a press conference after his smashing century in his 99th test match, the man coolly answers, "Bhai jab chhaati pe India likha ho toh dil nahi bharta." A man comes on the stage and whispers something in his ears. The fall of a star cricketer had just began! A match-fixing allegation brings his life crashing down to earth. He is sacked out of the team and imposed with a life-ban from playing cricket, his fans burn his effigies chanting anti-Azhar slogan. Dejectedly at one point Azhar even says, "Sau sahi kaam kar lo koi yaah nahi rakhta, ek galat ilzaam aur sabne bhula diya."
However determined to fight his own battle and clear his name, Azhar seeks help of his lawyer-friend Reddy (Kunal Roy Kapur). A flashback reveals how the man had turned a overnight sensation in the cricketing world after hitting three back-to-back centuries in his first test series. A little more rewind and we see his early years. His grandfather had always harboured a dream for the boy- to play 100 test matches for India. Later an introvert Azhar got hitched to the demure Naureen (Prachi Desai) at a very young age. From stealing glances to those cute-couple moments their innocent love story ran parallel with Azhar's quick rose to stardom. A foreign trip during one of the cricket tournaments made Azhar cross path with the gorgeous Bollywood actress Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri) and he instantly fell for her. We see that the shy Ajju has now become a suave and confident Azhar with a flaunting lifestyle. Azhar- Sangeeta's secret affair becomes a fodder for gossip and a magazine cover story. Azhar's struggling love life and the match-fixing scandal takes the nation by storm. Finally he resorts to the courtroom where he is all set to play the most important innings of his life. And things get even more difficult when you have the feisty Meera (Lara Dutta) as the prosecution lawyer, a once been Azhar fan!
Performances: After a string of flops Emraan Hashmi is back with a bang and how! The actor clearly shows that he has come a long way since his first film and the 'serial kisser' tag. His physical appearance might not match with Mohammad Azharuddin but when it comes to pulling off his character traits Emraan gives a first-rate performance. Be it the walking gait or Azhar's famous 'wrist' shots, he seems to have put in some good amount of hard work and that clearly shows on the big screen too.
Prachi Desai's coy act and gazes wins over your heart. Her scenes with Emraan are a delight to watch and bring a smile on your face.
Nargis Fakhri doesn't get much screen time. In that too all we see is her pouty face and I-am-faking-crying scenes! Hers is the weakest character which simply fails to bring an extra dimension to the story.
Lara Dutta does a good job. Kunal Roy Kapoor as the bumbling not-so-confident lawyer makes sure the audience get their quota of hearty laughs.
Alas! Gautam Gulati, Manjot Singh, Karanvir Sharma merely end up as Azhar's sidekicks as they have nothing much to do in the film.
Direction: Cricket is the second religion in India. This naturally raises up the curiosity level of its people when they hear that someone is making a film on one of the most controversial personalities of Indian cricket. Sadly director Tony D'Souza decides to play safe and gives us a watered down version that most of us are already well-versed with. Yes, he talks about Azhar and his two wives and the match-fixing scandal. But just when we think that some more skeletons will stumble out of the closet, the director dives into the safe zone again.
No doubt 'Azhar' is entertaining but Mr D'souza we took it pretty much serious when we were told by one of your characters in the film that 'logon ko pata chalna chahiye ki India mein cricket ke naam par kya kya hota hai'!
Rajat Arora's lines filled with plenty of dialoguebaazi will bring in claps and whistles in theatres. On the other some may find them cheesy and repetitive. The crisp editing makes sure that the film doesn't drag unnecessary and the audience stays engaged. However the to and fro narrative might be jarring for some. Like all Emraan Hashmi films 'Azhar' too has some hummable and soulful songs.
Combo-on-offer: Drama + Emotions
Verdict: We give 'Azhar' CLAPS for Emraan Hashmi's sincere performance and being an entertaining watch!
Love the film, hate the film, judge the film...the ball is in your court now!