Director: Mozez Singh
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Sarah Jane Dias
Zubaan is a decidedly odd film. It’s a coming of age story but also a musical and also a family drama with warring sons, a cruel, distant father figure and a malicious mother who doesn’t miss an opportunity to dig the knife deeper. The visuals are beautiful but also flat-out bizarre. The narrative is intermittently engaging but also overwrought. It feels like debutant director Mozez Singh started with many good ideas but then he force-fit them all into one film. The result is a lukewarm mash-up that never achieves lift off.
Vicky Kaushal plays Dilsher, a hesitant, stuttering boy from Gurdaspur who comes to Delhi chasing a dream. Dilsher is instantly interesting because Vicky is such a compelling actor but also because Dilsher isn’t quite the wholesome pind da puttar that you think he is. He’s scheming and insidious but just as you are getting hooked, Mozez changes tracks. Dilsher manages to inveigle himself into the kingdom of Gurcharan Sikand, a big-time builder who is known as the ‘Lion of Gurdaspur’. Years ago, Gurcharan had given Dilsher some life-altering advice. But all is far from well because Gurcharan has a sniveling, entitled son Surya, who keeps whining about his father not loving him. He instantly hates Dilsher and calls him ‘Papa’s pet dog’. Gurcharan also has a wife from hell – Mandira known as Mandy. Mandy, who carries expensive handbags and smokes, likes to address Gurcharan as Pendu. This is one miserable family. We also have a parallel track about Dilsher’s relationship with music. Sarah Jane Dias plays Amira, a singer who tries to show Dilsher that music is his true calling.
Zubaan starts out well enough. Mozez creates surges of emotion but the narrative is so disjointed that it dissipates quickly. Though the film mostly takes place in Delhi and Gurdaspur, the plot doesn’t seem tethered to any known reality. At one point, Amira is mourning a family tragedy by getting stoned in the desert with friends. They are singing and dancing in a truck lit by fluorescent lights. It’s gorgeous to look at but what does any of it mean?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. Or it’s with Mozez Singh and he hasn’t been able to communicate it with us. Zubaan has 14 songs woven into the narrative but few feel organic or stick in the memory. For me, the highlight of Zubaan is Vicky’s textured performance. He invests Dilsher with a keen intelligence and a quiet strength. I just wish Dilsher’s journey had a little more logic, consistency and depth.