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Zubaan: Unchained melody

Vicky Kaushal carries off the duplicity and deceptions, the ambition and enterprise yetthe vulnerability, insecurity and interiority of his character with great self-possession.  

If there’s one thing that Zubaan clearly establishes it’s the virtuosity of the young Vicky Kaushal. Zubaan is technically his first film, one he signed and began work on before his first release, Masaan , yet not one shot betrays inexperience and rawness as an actor. In fact, Vicky carries off the duplicity and deceptions, the ambition and enterprise yet the vulnerability, insecurity and interiority of his character with great self-possession.

The stuttering, inward looking Dilsher (Vicky) arrives from Gurdaspur to the big builder jungle of the city (New Delhi), sneaks himself into the good books of the tycoon Guru Sikand (Manish Chaudhari), gets a room in his sprawling estate and lands right in the middle of the heated dining room politics of Sikand’s dysfunctional family. It’s a world of lies, secrets and several skeletons in the cupboard. The jealousy of Sikand’s son Surya (Raaghev Chanana), the rivalry between him and Dilsher for Sikand’s attention, affection and validation is nicely played out. The father-son issue is compelling: the real as against the surrogate father, the bonafide versus the proxy son. And then, as the cherry atop the cake, there is the over compensatory love of the mother.

Director Mozez Singh does well in nailing the manipulation, conspiracies and power play underlying the relationships. The lead roles do seem to come with TV soap trappings, but the actors make them extremely watchable. Chaudhari is ever so powerful yet held back as Sikand and, as his wife, Meghna Malik gets to be more than the conventional vamp. But Chanana is the surprise as the whiny wimp Surya who can’t figure why his father doesn’t love him.

Fighting inner demons

In the moral compass of Hindi cinema ambition can’t be everything so Dilsher also has to hear the good inner voice and leave the corporate one-upmanship to pursue his real calling: music. Sikand, the foster father, has given Dilsher his biggest lesson in life: that it’s only you who can help yourself; you have to write your own destiny. But it is his real father, a ragi in the gurudwara, who is responsible for the fount of music trapped within him.

Sadly that musical journey to self-discovery is too abrupt and unconvincingly laid out in the film. More so because it is stoked up by the most ill-formed character in the entire film, singer Amira (Sarah Jane Dias) who, like everyone else in the film, is also fighting her own demons. Her hallucinatory rock-n-roll world, especially the bit about music-in-the-desert, feels too fashioned.

Eventually, the narrative gets too disjointed, uneven and incoherent. Zubaan feels strangely schizophrenic, like two completely different films held together by the common factor: Dilsher. The rural Punjab setting and its music is rooted and real: the shabads and folk, Lakh khushiyan paadshahiyan , Ek omkar satnam and Mitter pyaare nu .

However, despite the fabulous music the songs feel more like intrusions than part of the storytelling. Vicky pulls off the Sikh pop singer act as well, especially in the Ajj Saanu O Mileya number, which plays out like a rousing anthem in the end. If only the lead-up to it was as compelling. Zubaan is a film that you stay with till the end even as you rue that it could have been so much better.


Director: Mozez Singh

Starring: Vicky Kaushal, Manish Chaudhari, Sarah Jane Dias, Raaghev Chanana, Meghna Malik

Runtime: 115 mins

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 11:52:41 PM |

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