Noblemen Movie Review - Diabolic but unconvincing
The narrative framing is so slow and studied that it takes a long while for the storyline to wretch-up its rather perverse, facile climax
Director: Vandana Kataria
Cast: Ali Haji, Kunal Kapoor, Soni Razdan, Muskaan Jaferi, Ivan Rodrigues
Noblemen has a noble purpose so-to-speak. Set in a boarding school, Noble High, located in Mussourie, in the backdrop of a prestigious Founder's day staging of Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice,' the film opens up into a rather grim and horrific take on campus bullying, homophobia, queer struggles, teenage issues and manipulative abusive relationships. But none of the themes so unleashed are presented with any punch or effectiveness.
The lethargic screenplay takes a while to connect the dots and even when it does the link to the Bard's oeuvre (an oblique reference point for the set-up) is rather tenuous. Noble High is an all-boys school at heart and only the teachers' daughters' are given permission to enrol there. So with a mere hand-full of girls and the rest, boys, there's bound to be competitiveness and churning for the few 'hero' positions on offer there. It's a twisted tale no doubt and the stereotypical characters are all there. A sensitive boy Shay( Ali Haji) desirous of making his single Mom, a paralysed Flgt. Lt. Shruti Sharma( Soni Razdan) proud by playing the lead, Bassanio in the Merchant of Venice staging for Founders' day, an actor's son Baadal ( Shaan Grover) who thinks he should be 'entitled' for the role given his genealogy, a sporting hero Arjun (Mohammod Ali Mir) who believes he is God's gift to the school and therefore can get away with any unforgivable act, Ganesh aka Ganzu( Hardik Thakkar) an overweight, body shamed outcast himself who gravitates to Shay and bonds with him, Pia (Muskaan Jaferi) the token attractive girl who lands the role of Portia and has her own story of abuse to recall, a new drama teacher Murali (Kunal Kapoor) who becomes the instrument for the churning within the school because of his intrepid passion to teach and his radical, sensitive, idealistic approach in tackling student issues, a competitive Deputy Headmaster Mr Nair (Ivan Rodrigues) who hides his drinking problem behind the veneer of an intractable disciplinarian and an ageing Principal/Headmaster (M K Raina) who finds himself unequal to the challenge of the new age issues that crop up in the everyday running of a boarding school in the post millennial era. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of rehearsals and coercive and brutal attempts by Baadal, Arjun and Gang to get Shay to withdraw from the lead, this drama which hopes to mirror the diabolic nature of the Bard's take on the Noblemen of Venice, is interesting if not substantively conclusive.
Check out the trailer here:
The narrative framing is so slow and studied that it takes a long while for the storyline to wretch-up its rather perverse, facile climax. The sub-plot which has the sensitive, confused student turn on his adored teacher by virtue of a rejection doesn't ring true at all and therefore the subsequent last act appears to come out of left field. For a first-time effort, erstwhile production designer turned newbie director, Vandana Kataria does a fair job handling a raw cast and concocting an informative drama out of middle school shenanigans. The fresh actors make sensitive portrayals their hallmark but the stilted nature of the narrative and the rather over-ambitious intent, fail to pass muster. This film is certainly not as telling as it could have been!
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