Nawabzaade review: A terrible comedy filled with misogyny and sexism
The film passes off blatant misogyny as cute and endearing
Nawabzaade is the kind of B-Grade Hindi cinema that is fraught with problems. It follows the story of three friends from a modest neighbourhood obsessed with finding the girl of their dreams. There is one major stumbling block, though. The trio mistakes every pretty woman who glances in their direction to be ‘the one.’ Sound familiar? You’ve not heard the end of it, yet.
Most of the plot is recounted from the confines of a police station by Karan (Raghav Juyal), Abhishek (Punit Pathak), and Salim (Dharmesh Yelande). The man in charge, giving the three hapless blokes an audience, is Inspector Kathor Singh (Vijay Raaz). In between Singh’s deadpan wisecracks, we are given an understanding as to how the three men landed in jail. Best friends, Karan, Abhishek, and Salim, often get together every night to lament how every woman they pursue ends up with someone else. Karan is a fashion designing graduate from Delhi who works as a tailor in his uncle’s shop. Salim, a big Salman Khan fan, works as a kabadiwala to make ends meet. Abhishek, who was named after the famous Bachchan son, is a 3D animator who puts up film posters for a living. Each of these men isn’t shy of a lech – that is the one thing they seem to have in common. Be it at work or on the street, the mere sight of a good-looking woman has our jokers undertaking all sorts of inappropriate behaviour. This behaviour ranges from staring and stalking to out-and-out lewdness – but the film conveniently passes this off as ‘boys being boys’. The narrative even attempts to convince us that this conduct doubles for confidence, somehow.
Director: Jayesh Pradhan
Cast: Raghav Juyal, Punit Pathak, Dharmesh Yelande, Isha Rikhi, Vijay Raaz
When the actual woman of their dreams makes an entrance, their sleazebag act gets even worse. Sheetal's (Isha Rikhi) introduction scene is a case in point. As she moves into their modest mohalla, the three men in question (along with every other male onlooker) cannot peel their eyes away. It appears as if they are setting eyes on a young woman for the very first time in their existence. If that isn’t bad enough, the voiceover of a main character refers to her in such glowing terms: santre jaisi raseeli (as juicy as an orange). It goes without saying at this point (none of the trio has spoken to her as yet, of course) that Sheetal is the one. The next day, the three men barge into Sheetal and her friend at the marketplace. Their romantic (read creepy) behaviour notwithstanding, Sheetal turns down all three proposals by bursting into tears. It is her friend, and not her, who tells the men to scoot.
But taking no for an answer has never been mainstream Bollywood’s style, has it? The men break into her house to deliver the all-important question paper of an exam. After ogling at her sleeping, they head off after leaving a note. What would anyone in Sheetal’s position do when confronted by this unacceptable act? Lodge a complaint with the police, or, at the very least, kick up a storm. But no! She is thankful for their generosity and acknowledges their gesture with a smile. Who cares about stealing an exam paper or breaking and entering or getting stalked by three men with questionable intentions? Fair is foul and foul is fair, after all! Taking the smile as her willingness to be wooed, Salim tries to curry favour with Sheetal’s alcoholic father, Abhishek gets close to her mother by joining the family at meal times, and Karan opts for a more direct approach.
The only half-redeemable moments in the plot come from Vijay Raaz. There is something about the man’s comic timing that has the power to make even the most puerile of jokes and punchlines sound funny. Unfortunately, for the talent he possesses, he ends up in supporting roles of mostly god-awful comedy films. Even Nawabzaade’s twists--with a gangster’s drugs ending up in the wrong bag, the ridiculousness of the staged kidnapping, and the revelation of Sheetal’s true intentions--are way below par. But it is the clear-cut sexism/misogyny that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In spite of their long list of questionable choices involving a female character, the three male leads are somehow passed off as good guys. This reinforced notion of them being decent at heart is the saddest part of all. The men are just creeps, plain and simple.
Another dreadful aspect is how Sheetal’s character is written. For most of the film, she has no real mind of her own. She just goes along with whatever Karan, Abhishek, and Salim, have to say, not once objecting to their unbecoming behaviour. Bollywood films of this ilk really need to get their act together. Passing off such blatant misogyny as cute or endearing is just not done. The kind of attitude it perpetuates among people (predominantly men) who don’t know any better is downright disastrous.