Ravi Shastri might want to pick up a bat and knock out the makers of Azhar. Or he may simply laugh the way you do when the much married Shastri — named ‘Ravish’ and played by TV actor Gautam Gaulati with a perfect arrogant curl of the lips and moustache– is shown sleeping around during an England tour. One is not sure whether the objectionable part here is the damage to his reputation or the utterly unintentionally hilarious way in which we see it played out on screen.

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Cricket scandals, women, extramarital affairs and bookies should make for a great pot-boiler. But the moment it’s labelled as being true, expectations and emotions run high. Just like a World Cup match. 

Knowing this, the film comes with a long disclaimer stating that Azhar is not a biopic, but a fictional account based on true events in Azharuddin’s life. Emraan Hashmi plays the disgraced cricket captain, who was banned from playing cricket in 2000 by BCCI after being accused of match fixing. The ban was subsequently lifted in 2012 by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The first time we see Azhar in the film is for a few seconds after knocking the final run of his century and winning a match. The camera quickly zooms in on Hashmi’s face as he walks out of the stadium. One can see the director—Tony D’ Souza (of Blue, Boss fame) is in a hurry to get away from cricket grounds, and move into safer zones of sensational drama. So Azhar’s famous “flick” is referred to, rather than seen. At one point, Azhar takes a winning catch, but all you see is a shot of Hashmi jump ever so slightly and a ball simply drops into his hand.

b’Source: YouTube’

The film goes back and forth across years in quick tacky scenes from the trial to the major events in his life: like his first marriage in 1987 and the three controversial test matches in the 1990s. In an attempt to establish Azhar’s dedication and roots, the film goes back to 1963 when the cricketer was born in Hyderabad and raised by his Nana (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). Azhar is seen as the soft spoken boy who cannot even raise his voice against bullies.

We later see how he is bullied by his teammates, including ‘Ravish’ and ‘Manoj’ (Manoj Prabhakar) when he was made captain. Kapil Dev (played by the most unconvincing non-lookalike Varun Badola) makes a brief appearance too. There are also rather amateurish dressing room fights between Azhar and his teammates.

The film ends up resting on Azhar’s lawyer (Kunaal Kapoor who is unrecognisable as the balding, bumbling Reddy), two wives—Naureen (Prachi Desai, beautiful with her blush act) and Salman Khan’s ex, Sangeeta ‘Oye Oye’ Bijlani ( a pouty Nargis Fakhri) and Hashmi.

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Hashmi strikes it firm and sure, just like with his kisses. With his T- shirt collar up in Azhar’s trademark style, a simple hairstyle and a lop-sided gait, he maintains the look of a helpless man who has been wronged.

While Azhar’s first marriage is brought out well, his second marriage to Sangeeta comes across as an eyewash protecting her own unwillingness to break his first marriage. The entire drama ends up being rather boring, made worse by Fakhri’s distracting lips and bad acting. Give us her witty interviews any day. One would rather hear her cracking jokes on penis sizes and vaginas falling off, rather than faking tears on screen.

b’A still from Bol Do Na Zara | Source: YouTube’

To add further insult to hysterics, a hot but sincere Lara Dutta is seen playing Azhar’s prosecutor, Meera who was his ‘fan’ once upon a time.

So is Azhar, which is not a patch on Chak De India or any sports film; in the end a PR exercise for Azharuddin made by his fans and friends? Ravi Shastri might be able to answer that best.