3.5 Very Good

Everyone loves a sporting hero – the guy who comes from nowhere and wins hearts of the nation. It doesn't happen too often. What happens even lesser is when the very fans who put him on the pedestal, pull him down because they find him unworthy of the love and adulation. Azhar is the story of a fallen hero's fight for his lost dignity. From a lower middle-class background in Hyderabad, Mohammed Azharuddin (Emraan) rises to become one of India's most successful captains in the world of cricket. But the journey is speckled with controversies and scandals galore. On the personal front, he makes headlines when he romances a film heroine Sangeeta (Nargis) who he eventually marries after leaving his first wife Naureen (Prachi). On the career front, he is banned from playing cricket after being accused of match fixing. The film tracks Azhar's journey as he combats his inner battles with a clear mission – to have his name cleared. What's good: There are two ways to make a biopic – you either position it like a docu-drama or take the populist route. Director Tony D'Souza opts for the latter, which is a clever move because Mohammed Azharuddin was always a people's hero. For the most part of the film, the reconstruction of Azhar's life from real to reel is authentic. Tony begins his lead character's story on the right note – his entry on the cricket field on the day of his grandfather's death to Ravi Shastri's role in his selection. The film sails along seamlessly in the first half with the endearing portions between Azhar and Naureen being the highlights. The real Azharuddin has endorsed the film and it's commendable that he gave his nod to the portrayal of all the Grey areas in his life – his infidelity, insensitivity, betrayal, insult, and humiliation is there for public consumption. The most important part is the admission of accepting money from a bookie – even if for a larger reason. Tony has added some delicious moments in the film – look out for the fight with Manoj (Prabhakar) in the locker room; Ravi's (Shastri) wife barging into the spa looking for her philandering husband; Navjyot (Sidhu) refusing to support Azhar and even Kapil (Dev) looking the other way. Azharuddin, as we know him, was always a shy, awkward guy who didn't speak eloquently or display emotions openly. Emraan Hashmi gets the character perfect to the core – from the body language to the attitude. It's a credit to Emraan that you feel the pain of Azhar going from the most loved man to the most hated man in the country. There is a scene where Azhar is called for a ribbon cutting – Emraan's act in that will make you cringe. The conflict that Azhar feels before dating Sangeeta, whether real or aimed at whitewashing, is interesting and effective. As is Azhar's insistence of keeping his wives, parents and kids out of the court, despite being abandoned by his friends and colleagues. There is something uniquely real about Naureen's character from her appearance to her dialogues. Prachi brings to life the dignity and charm of Azhar's former wife with her performance. The non-linear format of the film accentuates the impact. Rajat Arora's dialogues add the necessary chutzpah to Azhar's character.

What's not: A major part of the film is in the confines of a courtroom. Sadly, that's the portion that seems dreary. Both the lawyers (Lara Dutta and Kunal Roy Kapoor) in the film are like caricatures. You also wish the film had dug deeper into the story. It feels incomplete; questions still remain unanswered. Nargis Fakhri looks glamorous despite her distracting duck pout but she should strictly avoid roles where she has to emote even remotely.