'Zwigato' review: Kapil shines in emotionally resonant, yet flawed drama
Nandita Das's Zwigato, led by Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami, arrived on Friday. It marks an evident departure from Sharma's rib-tickling comedian image and dives deep into the repercussions of the post-COVID-19 economic scenario: loss of jobs, financial decay, and food delivery agents' nightmarish status quo. The film's strong intentions and Sharma's performance make Zwigato engaging, but it tragically falls short of being excellent.
This is what 'Zwigato' is all about
The drama is centered around Manas and Pratima, a lower-middle-class couple who have enough to get by but not enough to go to sleep sans any nightmares. Manas has lost a "respectable" job due to the pandemic and is reduced to being a delivery agent who crushes under his Kafkaesque situation everyday—the incentives, the ratings, the never-ending orders—he labors to catch a breath.
The very first scene of 'Zwigato' is multilayered with nuances
I'll begin with the parts that moved me instantaneously in Zwigato. The first frame features Sharma in the general compartment of a train, and trains are important metaphors because they mark both endings and new beginnings. In this scene, there's a conspicuous pride in his voice when he says he is a manager—an English word he can't pronounce correctly but knows the reputation of.
An accurate representation of suppressed dreams and muffled desires
The pathos brought to light by Das and Sharma hits the nail on its head; it's grounded and a spitting replica of our society. Each time Manas or his family mentions their ambitions, it's always in a muffled voice. There is almost a sinking realization that upward mobility is mostly, if not always, a rich man's affair—a territory already colonized by someone else.
You'll find your surroundings in 'Zwigato'
Das's grip over reality swims to the surface in another scene when the delivery agents are referred to as "Zwigato" and not by their real names. The brand and the agent become indistinguishable, with humans being disposable and easily replaceable. Zwigato is also the story of "two Indias"—Manas is chided by a restaurant manager for not wearing a mask, while not wearing one himself.
Some everyday life humor is spread throughout the drama
Sharma paints the character with a sheer sense of vulnerability and restlessness, so much so, that you don't want any bad luck to befall Manas from the get-go. Moreover, the humor peppered in between ensures that Zwigato doesn't become too grim; it also acts as a reminder of people rising above their misery to catch the silver lining, or merely a flicker of it.
Negative: The lack of good screenplay clips the movie's wings
The most discernible and significant roadblock that impedes Zwigato from riding at full speed is its lack of a proper story. There is a plot in place here, sure, but it cannot compensate for the lack of a well-etched-out screenplay. The entire film is about Manas's everyday life, and these sequences, taking place one after other, are sometimes not even related to each other.
Storylines are abandoned, characters are not developed well
The aforementioned sequences help build Manas's character and allow us insights into his endless frustrations, but they don't add layers to the drama overall. Resultantly, it feels like the movie comes back to its starting point in no time and your patience begins to demand answers when similar sequences play on a loop. Abandoned storylines and half-baked characters go against the social drama, too.
The movie wants to say a lot, but can it?
Zwigato feels like a film that—in its limitless aspiration to say a lot—ends up saying the same thing over and over again and doesn't realize it. At a point in the second half, it suddenly becomes a thriller for five minutes and begins commenting on Marxist themes, eventually becoming a drama that struggles to squeeze in and justify multiple topics at once.
Sharma is the real star of the show
One has to give it to Sharma for owning the character so deeply. In fact, there is hardly a scene in which frustration and melancholy don't get reflected on his face. His scenes with Goswami—who is another terrific performer here—are a treat to watch. They lend a sense of realism and authenticity to the drama that ultimately becomes Zwigato's central axis, its beating heart.
'Zwigato' can be watched on OTT for Sharma's hard-hiting performance
You want to embrace Zwigato with all your heart, and you do, largely, but it runs out of fuel before it can be dubbed excellent. It's unfortunate because the potential is there, and yet, somehow, it is unable to eclipse Zwigato's flaws. Nonetheless, it deserves a watch for Sharma's acting and its hard-hitting portrayal of ubiquitous apathy in India. Verdict: Zwigato gets 3/5.