REVIEW: Zwigato

Kapil Sharma charms, Shahana Goswami shines in this surprising yet powerful Nandita Das film, writes ARNAB BANERJEE

Reading Time: 4 minutes


That Nandita Das, an accomplished actor-director, would come up with a story that makes it compulsive viewing is a given. What is pleasantly surprising is the subject she has chosen as the theme of the film Zwigato.

By using a trope that India is too familiar with – ie food delivery apps – she lays bare the challenges of common people in a social milieu that offers few options for strugglers. One gets to see an underlying political stagnation as well. Without being preachy, she lets the viewers figure out for themselves the ups and downs of the unbalanced society we live in.

Film: Zwigato.

Duration: 104 minutes.

Director: Nandita Das.

Cast: Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami.

Cinematography: Ranjan Palit.

Music: Sagar Desai/Hitesh Soni.

Rating: ****

At the heart of the 104-minute Zwigato is Kapil Sharma, who plays Manas Mahto, a migrant from Jharkhand, who along with his wife Pratima (Shahana Goswami), two children and ailing mother, comes to an expanding Bhubaneswar to explore possibilities of a decent life.

Having lost his job as a floor manager, he is forced to work as a food delivery rider, grappling with the app on his phone and the world of ratings and incentives. His everyday struggle is painful as he tries hard to cope with keeping perfect timing for deliveries to make ends meet.

(Source: IMDB)

Manas isn’t alone fighting for survival; Pratima too, not content with being just another homemaker, looks around for work to support her husband’s income. And so, from being a masseuse for rich women to a cleaner at a mall, she tries her hand at everything. At the heart of her efforts is a tremendous will and desire to better their lives.

In a scene when the couple gets to know that Manas’s elder brother and family would be visiting, she decides to stitch together old sarees and bedsheets to partition the single room they have so that the visiting family could have a separate area to themselves. She tries to accommodate her guests wholeheartedly, not letting her extra work come in the way of her eagerness to be hospitable.

Manas, in the meantime, faces a number of hurdles while making an all-out effort to earn just Rs 15 per delivery. There is an instance when a couple erroneously orders 20 pizzas amid revelry at an apartment. When Manas arrives with the order, he is greeted with liquor bottles and other remains of the party, and even treated most shabbily by the owner of the flat, who asks him to leave just two pizzas and take away the rest.

The place that the couple live in is at best a makeshift living arrangement – but it abounds in the warmth of a home. The family unhesitatingly clean up the indisposed bedridden mother, whose problem of incontinence is never grudged, or is allowed to become an irritant. Each member of the family just performs his or her duty unquestioningly.

Manas and his ilk, who are almost enslaved by their ruthless employers, merely play along without asking any questions. If there’s one thing that irks Manas, it is the thanklessness with which he is greeted by customers. Not that he shows any displeasure openly.

At best, he retorts to a caption that says “Mazdoor hain tabhi majboor hain!” (We are poor labourers and hence vulnerable and defenceless!) with the moan, “Majboor hai tabhi mazdoor hain” (We are helpless, therefore we are labourers!).

On the face of it, Zwigato presents itself as a story of an easy-going man who doesn’t let his frustrations get the better of him, except, perhaps, when his dignity is threatened to be compromised. A sharp comment here and an oblique hint many a times at the class divide that’s so apparent in India, make the film a much layered and incisive attempt.

Kapil Sharma as Manas lives the role not once falling prey to his much-adored status as the undisputed king of comedy. Viewers will be in for a pleasant surprise to see him stripped of his image that has earned him millions of fans worldwide. He slips into the character of Manas with such ease that it may force his admirers to do a double take. At places he performs like a seasoned actor.

(Source: IMDB)

His co-actor Shahana Goswami as Pratima is note-perfect and lets much of her silences and pauses speak for her undeniable talent as a consummate actor. If Kapil slips into playing Manas effortlessly, she brings quiet dignity and unreserved sensitivity to her role. Cameos by Sayani Gupta and Gul Panag, though minuscule, are extremely believable too.

Photography by Ranjan Patil is understated, letting the unpretentious backdrop of Bhubaneswar convey the striking contrast between the grime and occasional pallor of Manas and Shahana’s life and the dazzle of the sprawling malls alongside.

Zwigato is a social commentary, but it doesn’t leave any didactic message for viewers. If there’s anything as a takeaway, it would make arrogant and affluent consumers of home deliveries give a serious rethink to their sense of entitlement when they come in contact with porters, carriers and delivery men.

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