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Sameer Movie Review: A Terror Onto Itself

Directed by Dakxin Bajrange Chhara, it is an ideologically irresponsible film starring Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub

Rahul DesaiRahul Desai

September 8, 2017 | 12:09 PM

FC Rating

★★★★★
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Director: Dakxin Bajrange Chhara

Cast: Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Anjali Patil, Subrat Datta, Chinmay Mandlekar, Seema Biswas, Manoj Shah

The background score of a film is often a primary indicator of how honestly it is made. Sameer has an awfully grating score. Not once does it sound useful or organic; it adds virtually nothing except a false sense of urgency to disjointed proceedings. It’s almost as if the loud thriller-ness of this music is trying to drown out what Sameer really is – an ideologically irresponsible film. 

I could swear I saw Neeraj Pandey’s (A Wednesday, Baby) name as an additional writer in the opening credits. If this is true, it all adds up. Because I’ve seen a lot of recent ATS-versus-terrorist cat-and-mouse Hindi-language dramas, and Sameer is perhaps the most smart-alecky and reckless of them all. 

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It has all the token elements: no-nonsense ATS chiefs striding self-importantly from one site to another, broad-stroke media representations, “empathetic” terrorists, romanticized common-man doctrines, and communally sensitive areas (Ahmedabad) and deceitful plot twists. I’d go as far to say that such a film shouldn’t even exist in this age. Not just because of its condescending hyper-nationalist undertones and problematic politics, but also because it is a poorly crafted film harboring a meandering narrative.

It’s a pity such careless films are being churned out today in the name of social relevance. These are nothing but harebrained action dramas too scared to concoct up its own parallel universe.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays Sameer, a seemingly ordinary Hyderbadi hostel student who gets picked up by the ATS after a series of bomb blasts. He is mistreated and bullied by an Ahmedabad-based team desperate to nail a phantom target called Yasin. This Yasin chap is supposedly the one jihadi mastermind behind all these ghastly attacks. We’ve seen enough films to know what it means when an ominous name is mentioned throughout without associating a face to it – Keyser Soze, anyone? Ayyub is a fine actor; his shifty gaze goes a long way in holding up one end of the film’s bargain. The other end is represented by hotheaded ATS head, Vikram Desai (Subrat Dutta), who decides to use poor Sameer as a tortured mole to infiltrate the family of the mysterious terror suspect. 

Desai is the problem. His consistently Abbas-Mustan-esque ideas and decisions drive the choppy story. He isn’t very clever for a chap obsessed with justice. Moreover, it’s hard not to cringe during his “soft” scenes with a hardnosed female journalist (Anjali Patil, as Alia) he has a soft corner for. Shady lounge music peppers their corny interactions. This is bang in between outbursts of his homicidal attitude towards Sameer. 

Sameer eases into a friendly Muslim chawl (“Citizen Nagar” it seems) so that he can extract information from Yasin’s mother (Seema Biswas) and bitter brother (Chinmay Mandlekar) – all so that dashing Desai doesn’t make him the scapegoat. This chawl’s world building is awkward and disruptive; there are scattered scenes of a mentally unsound child – the darling of the area – speaking sadly to bust statues of Mahatma Gandhi, and interminable street naataks about callous administrations and unsuspecting populations. We get it: the shadow of the 2002 riots looms large, and will be used as a trigger for every vengeful soul in this script.

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We are made to understand this philosophy through manipulative characters that are determined to categorically gaslight us into oblivion: Yasin’s mamta-giving mother and the handicapped kid top this list. Not to mention “star” reporter Alia’s philanthropic pet project of trying to identify 55 children who went missing in those riots. In the long run, the morbid sensationalism of the writing overwhelms the tiny ounce of perspective it starts with. I lost interest as soon as “sleeper cells” (reminiscent of Akshay Kumar’s disastrous Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty) made its way into the vocabulary of Einstein Desai. His utterly idiotic plan is consistently self-defeating in a way that even Bollywood potboilers can’t justify. 

It’s a pity such careless films are being churned out today in the name of social relevance. These are nothing but harebrained action dramas too scared to concoct up its own parallel universe. It doesn’t matter if some of us believe that it was America and not Osama who directed those planes through the World Trade Towers. 

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But storytellers have to be a little more careful if they want to debunk or reiterate the same conspiracy theories. They shouldn’t sound like theirs is merely a contrarian stance because it suits their language. The stories they construct must at least respect the consequence and sanctity of the mediums they occupy. Sameer is a classic example of dramatic effect superseding intentions. Research is for ninnies. 

The only thing “hard-hitting” about such cinema is the rage it fills me with – not at the content, but at the sheer audacity to milk a gullible country full of intolerance. It works: I want to hit the makers hard.

Watch the trailer of Sameer here: