Nawab - Movie Review

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 22:45
Nawab (2018)
Cast & Crew: 

Film: Nawab
Cast: Arvind Swamy, Simbu, Vijay Sethupathi, Arun Vijay, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jyothika, Prakash Raj, Jayasudha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Dayana Erappa and others.
Dialogues: Kiran
Written by: Mani Ratnam and Siva Ananth
Music: A R Rehman
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan
Art: Sarmishta Roy
Editing: A Sreekara Prasad
Action: Dilip Subbarayan
Producer: Mani Ratnam, Ashok Vallabhaneni
Banner: Madras Talkies
Directed by: Mani Ratnam
Release date: September 27, 2018
CBFC Rating: UA

'Nawab', a crime-family drama directed by Mani Ratnam, hit the screens this Thursday.  Let's find out what works and what doesn't with this significant release.  


Bhupathi (Prakash Raj), a powerful mafia leader, survives an assassination bid.  He suspects that Chennappa Goud (Thyagarajan), his chief rival, was behind it.  But then, it's not that simple.  He soon realizes that the enemy is in his own house.

One of his three sons is the villain.  Varada (Arvind Swamy) is bold and bloody, loyally carrying out the assignments given by his father.  Thyagu (Arun Vijay) lives in Dubai and has business dealings with rich Arab Sheiks.  Rudra (Simbu) is in Serbia and he deals in arms.  

Then there is Varada's childhood friend, Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi), who is loyal to Bhupathi and his friend.  

The second half is about what happens between the three brothers when Bhupathi dies.  Will they rise in unison?  Or will they become each other's enemies?  Two brothers are united against the third one. Why?  Who becomes the 'Nawab' finally?  That's the climax.


Days after Bhupathi survives the murder attempt on him, he tells his wife (Jayasudha) that the enemy is one of the three sons.  He asks her, 'Should I tell his name?'  The shocked and saddened mother refuses to know the culprit's name.  She prefers to live in ignorance about the identity of the son who is now a snake.  Next day, when the three sons are sharing a light moment in the garden, this mother looks at them from her room, visibly pained, wondering who must be the child-turned-villain.  This is what you call the beauty of narration!

One of the sons is helpless and is literally running for life.  He doesn't know where to hide.  At this point, a tragedy strikes him.  He is even more helpless now but he wants to fight on.  Staring at emptiness in his life, he turns philosophical.  "Everybody who has walked the earth is a zero, everybody who will be born will be a zero.  Everything is a zero," he says, speaking like a Balachandar hero but his body language is that of a mass hero.  He breaks into a fight after this line.  

Another character reveals his true colours at a crucial juncture.  Till now, the audience was kept in the dark about his past.  He now reveals it all in less than one minute, takes out something and does something shocking.  The way he does it, it's a paisaa vasool moment if you are a stickler for action films.  Balancing style and substance is what this scene does with remarkable maturity.

Most films treat their characters like a joke.  If we still like many of them, it's because we are generous, not because they are perfect.  So, in most films, we are never told why a character thinks radically, or why he is bloodthirsty.  In 'Nawab', the wrong kind of childhood that the three sons had as children and adolescents is revealed in two emotional scenes.  (This was done subtly in the interval scene of 'Kaatru Veliyadai'/'Cheliyaa').  

What happens when the men in a family have a bloody feud?  How do their women react?  This is brought out briefly but soulfully in 'Nawab'.  For example, Jayasudha takes up the responsibility to talk to one of the sons at a crucial juncture.  Jyothika has her own share of issues with her husband, who has an extra-marital affair with a journo (Aditi Rao Hydari).  A wife assures her husband to never be worried as she will always protect him.  Such a touching role-reversal!  

Gangsters having a serious conversation over a ritual, a son telling his mother that the late father had brought up everyone as selfish guys in the family...  These are small but evocative moments.  

The bungalow of Bhupathi is like a glass mahal.  Is it a visual metaphor to suggest that the family members are vulnerable to exposure and attacks?  Talking of inner meanings, a key character chooses to stand at the edge of a cliff with abandon and over-confidence.  You might ask in retrospect: 'Why was he in a hurry to 'fall' into oblivion?' 

The performances are all fine.  Arvind Swamy, Simbu and Vijay Sethupathy emerge the toppers.  Jyothika and Jayasudha are so nice.  Arun Vijay, Aishwarya Rajesh, Dayana Errapa, Prakash Raj and others are good.  

AR Rahman's stylish and profound-sounding songs are montage ones here.  The sound of his BGM is never dull.  Santhosh Sivan's cinematography may not be top-notch but it fares well.  Sreekar Prasad's editing is nimble.

Let there be caveats.  Don't expect thrilling moments in the first half.  They are reserved for the second half.  At times, Mani is content being a Ram Gopal Varma.  The director doesn't invest any effort in narrating the manoeuvres of the three sons.  

Things happen without much detailing or even an explanation at times.  Before you can blink your eyes, Arvind Swamy is stripped of his muscle power.  Before you know, some big action moments come and disappear.  These can be problematic from the point of view of the mass audience.

Bottomline:'Nawab' has some terrific scenes and the technical output is superb. The performances are efficient. You will love the way Mani Ratnam depicts the nature of the main characters. Though some scenes are not convincing, the narration is gripping.

Reviewed by: 
Vishwanath V