Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi film Zwigato starring Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami. The film had a special place in my heart from a creative standpoint, right from the very beginning. And this is because one of my favourite directors Nandita Das, the maker behind stellar films like Firaaq and Manto apart from being a great actor herself, was teaming up with one of the best standup artists of the country, Kapil Sharma. The combination for me was such a unique one that I always was curious on what they had to offer. If rumours were to be believed then, the film was far from a comedy, something that you would associate with Kapil Sharma. In fact this was more in Nandita’s space which multiplied my expectations from the film ten fold.
Zwigato had earlier premiered had the Busan International Festival and the word of mouth for the film was positive. Finally, the film did premiere in India but as is the case with certain kind of films, the film did not open to great numbers. And quite honestly that did break my heart considering how people have been yapping about the Hindi film industry not serving original content(now that I have finished watching Zwigato, I am even more upset). These very people would watch the film on OTT and comment on things like, ‘I fail to understand why this did not work theatrically’ whereas the truth is that it didn’t work because you did not go to the theatre to support it. And we at Popcorn Reviewss would always stand for good content even if we are in the ‘minority’. And so here are my thoughts on why you should go and support Zwigato in a theatre near you.
Story & Screenplay
Zwigato(a clever mishmash of Swiggy and Zomato) follows the story of a delivery man set against the backdrop of a socio-economic environment in Odisha. The story here might seem simple on the surface but the writers have packed in layers and layers of subtext with a subtle commentary on each of the prevalent issues. The screenplay standing at just a 105 minutes does make for a brisk watch which is poignant in so many ways. This section will contain mild spoilers!
The drama does open on an erratic note, almost playing out at a 2x speed. The camera is constantly seen shaking while you are introduced to the protagonist amidst a random train of events. Soon, you realise that this is a chaotic dream of the protagonist who is shown to be from a humble background. The case of a common man is such that the miseries are never really wiped off. As a result, even his dreams are restricted and his wants are only from an immediate standpoint. In this case, the protagonist did dream of getting a good rating from his clients while doing his delivery job. Poignant!
The proceedings are engrossing and subject to you paying attention to the smaller details in the film. The household setup of the protagonist(Manas) is a patriarchal one wherein he does have a problem with his wife having a job especially that of a masseur. There is his old mother who is bed ridden who is primarily taken care of by Pratima(his wife) and his daughter while his son is given a little more liberty in the household. You often spot the little daughter helping out her mother while the son is a little more playful with his raps, thus completely ignoring the household chores.
You are shown the plight of Manas during the times of his delivery. The little gripe that he does have is that the amount that he earns per delivery is way less than the amount of efforts being churned out by him(elsewhere other delivery personnel are seen counting the digits of the revenue that the company Zwigato does make). The politics of a ‘faceless’ company makes you want to empathize with the protagonist who is quite sincere in his job. The backdrop of Covid, a time when many jobs were lost, does add texture to the drama wherein we are told that the protagonist once used to work as a manager in a factory. And presumably so, the money he is making currently versus the one previously so, would have been significantly large(but relatively so). The hint being that his son did study in a well off school which we get to know in a poignant scene wherein Manas has to deliver a parcel to a customer who is the principal in his son’s school.
The politics of the drama doesn’t end there! While we do witness Manas having to deal with different types of customers – the good, the bad and the ugly, his plight does coincide with the socio-political situation of the state. There is a drastically moving scene wherein he is seen as a bystander in what seemed like a rival political rally against the establishment. A deeper look into it did reveal that this was a communist party group which made the setting all the more important. A cyber cafe scene truly does pronounce the politics around certain government schemes wonderfully well! I do enjoy dramas which play out politics almost as a reference point without much context(like in Jhund).
Another subtext in the drama was related to a clear cut class divide of the society(while deftly touching upon religion too – a scene wherein a nervous Muslim delivery guy stations himself outside a temple out of fear). From two separate instances – one being a scene wherein one of the characters is told to use a service lift as opposed to a regular one, elsewhere that same character stands with a group of people who are instructed on not using the mall toilet, does give a stoic picture of the current state of affairs. Even a reference to Pratima’s sweaty palms prompting the customer to opt not to take a massage from her, further enunciate the point. But there is always a hierarchy as far as class is concerned and where you are is purely from a reference standpoint. So elsewhere, there is a man(perhaps from an even lower strata of the society) who approaches Manas on whether delivers can be done on cycles. Another scene does involve a lower class man being rejected from a job for that very reason! Ahh the pain and the agony!
This brings me to the final act that really got me thinking on how the middle class people actually perceive life to be. The prompt being that Manas(who has lost his job with Zwigato) and his wife Pratima(now working at a mall in her uniform) are seeing enjoying a bike ride, almost racing against a moving train. This scene was just so rivetting with several emotions in play here. One was of acceptance(on the part of Manas regarding his job and his wife working and earning) and the other of liberation, of finding happiness in life in smaller things while being closely knit with the ones who love and support you. This was a stark contrast from the opening scene wherein you see the protagonist in a moving train(that did signify a bit of a prison). The miseries of a common man are always harrowing but they always find a way in accepting reality and staying happy, a deep sentiment which is a bit of an oxymoron in itself! Overall, the screenplay is beautifully penned and quite brilliant wherein the writers are cautious of not forming opinions for the viewers!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but also poignant at many places that do make for a solid impact. The music and the BGM have a grim and almost melancholic tone to it and both blend beautifully with the ongoing drama. The cinematography is excellent and coupled with the lighting and the setting, it makes the drama all the more textured. Director Nandita Das is a fabulous director and she scores yet again with a subtly moving tale of pathos. Her social commentary is subtle too and beautifully integrated in the drama.
The performances are outstanding by the ensemble cast. There are enlighting cameos by Gul Panag, Sayani Gupta and Swanand Kirkire and each one of them bring a different flavour to the drama. Shahana Goswami is such a phenomenal actor with such expressive eyes and as Pratima, she is absolutely brilliant here. The pain is calmly reflected in her eyes with a hash of insecurity regarding the future of the family and she portrays her role with utmost perfection. I am the happiest seeing her in such meaty and well defined roles. Kapil Sharma as Manas is a revelation in a role which is way off his comfort zone. The amount of emotions that he does bring to the table is surreal. This was such a natural act filled with pathos that it is almost haunting in many ways and it does stay with you long after the film has ended.
Zwigato is a genuinely moving tale of pathos with outstanding performances that does come with my highest recommendation! Go support this little film in a theatre near you, you won’t regret it!
PS : I hope the empathy towards the delivery boys does change and we all learn to respect their efforts while a plea to the food delivery companies would be to increase their wages(per order)!