Zwigato Movie Review: Nandita Das’s third directorial is such a powerful mirror to today’s India, which has always struggled with startling disparities between the haves and have-nots.
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Millions of Indians like Manas (Kapil Sharma) and his wife Pratima (Shahana Goswami) live with these anxieties on a daily basis. Can Manas make the required number of deliveries to get the required number of stars? How do you create the ultimate “app” that controls your every waking moment and can be zeroed in on the whims and fancies you cater to? The fact that the gig worker can do the (said client’s) discount himself doesn’t comfort Manas, who tells a squinty-eyed female Zwigato supervisor (Sayani Gupta), “Aap partner-partner karte hain, par paisa toh aap hi banaate hain’ (you call us partners, but you are the ones who earn)’.
Other truth bombs are sprinkled throughout the film, which sometimes finds itself beneath bald statements but never feels less real. A “delivery partner” named Aslam doesn’t dare go to the temple because he’s scared: “mujhe Darr lagta hai,” he tells Manas. A political activist’s (Swanand Kirkire) protest meeting, where he speaks about the brazen entitlement of the rich and powerful, is covered by loudspeakers as the police stand by, and the attendee is dragged away. Where will he be taken, and will we ever see him again? Brute force is at play, and we are mute spectators.
Pratima finds herself acting as a buffer between the growing frustrations of her husband and children. They are stuck with the quest for India, which supposedly can get them away from the uncertainty of their parents. Will Pratima’s rebellious act of leaving the house for a mall cleaner, or the random massage she offers to fit women living in posh apartment buildings, get her kids the smartphone they want? Will Manas, whose roots in the village are still strong, make peace with the alienation of living in urban settings? Or can the employment opportunities offered by the city, even though it is a mirage-type government plan that Manas is constantly looking for, compensate for it?
The shoot in Bhubaneswar where you can see the old and the new jostling side by side and hear the locals speaking Oriya brings freshness and flavor to the film. Both Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami are brilliant: he as the Everyman who doesn’t want his wife to work, yet is open to learning the value of pragmatism and his wife’s mastery of the tricky balance between being supportive and proactive.
Das’s film, which he co-wrote with Samir Patil, takes care not to become too miserable, even as it doesn’t want to take the burden off its characters. It asks us to testify, and it does it very well.
Zwigato movie cast: Shahana Goswami, Kapil Sharma
Zwigato movie director: Nandita Das
Zwigato Movie Rating: 3 stars