Cast: Kapil Sharma, Shahana Goswami
Director: Nandita Das
Let’s just stop saying ‘such films are made for, meant for and fit for film festivals’. At first, Zwigato might be regarded as ‘film festival material’ because it’s made at a pace that lets you soak in the flavour of the story being told without making it overtly commercial. But once you watch this close-to-reality tale, you’d realise it was long due that a film was made on the life of food delivery riders, who have become an intrinsic part of urban lifestyle. (Also Read | Kapil Sharma says South Koreans cried after watching Zwigato)
Director Nandita Das picks the most relatable subject and weaves a compelling story around it that you can’t help but feel empathetic towards this section of the society, and understand that they are helpless that’s why they are labourers, and not the other way round (Beautifully explained through a scene where a placard reads: Woh majdoor hai, isilkiye majbooor hai, and the protagonist corrects it saying: Woh majboor hai, isiliye majdoor hai). And while you could imagine any other actor portray this role with some rigorous prep, Das picks the most unusual casting by bringing in comedian Kapil Sharma to step into the skin of Manas, who is dealing with the adversities of life and struggling to make ends meet for his family. There are sequences where you would sense light humour but that comedy in tragedy is what Das wants to bring out m, and she does that beautifully. And Kapil doesn’t even need to be try sound funny, he so naturally is funny.
Set in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Zwigato follows the life of Manas (Kapil Sharma), an ex-factory floor manager who had to sit at home jobless for eight-months because of pandemic-induced unemployment. Being the only breadwinner in the family of five — his wife Pratime (Shahana Goswami), children Kartik (Prajwal Sahoo) and Purbi (Yuvika Brahma) and a bed-ridden ailing mother, Maai (Shantilata Padhy), Manas ends up signing up as a partner with a food delivery app called Zwigato – a cheeky blend of popular food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy). He then manoeuvres his way to understand the tricks of the trade, trying to crack the complicated rating system, hoping to achieve daily delivery target, encountering difficult customers and sometimes, requesting for a selfie with them to earn that extra incentive.
I quite liked that instead of focusing on the plight and ordeal of these families who are reeling from the aftermaths of the pandemic, Zwigato prefers to highlight how life has to continue against all odds. A stern take on India’s gig economy, the film often turns into a social commentary with slight references to political scenario and system flaws that service class has to deal with, but it never takes the preachy zone. A short and impactful monologue by Sayani Gupta who sits at a respectable position in the Zwigato company’s headoffice hits hard when she tries to assert that in a country of 2.4 billion, there are 93,000 applications for the position of a peon out of which several are from PhD holders and that these delivery partners should consider themselves lucky for having a job of convenience where they can pick the shift they wish to work and go online and offline as they please.
It is 105 minutes of being transported to another world where there’s nothing fancy or flamboyant about the settings, but yet so much honesty, warmth, a lot of hard work, running errands, fighting the system yet not giving up. The story co-written by Das and Samir Patil has its heart at the right place, and Sharma with his nuanced performance adds soul to it by getting out of his comfort zone so much so that there are no traces of the funny man that everyone knows him as.
Sharma, as Manas, is as earnest and convincing as it gets. It’s a chameleon-like transformation in terms of his body language, demeanour and especially his dialogue delivery without any of his usual Punjabi touch. Full marks to Sharma for getting that right. The way he blends this honesty in his performance with touches of humour without making you pity his life, is endearing and leaves you with a smile. Goswami is once again brilliant with her craft and gives her best to every scene. Though her parallel story of wanting to help her husband while taking care of the house is a secondary to the protagonist, but the conviction with which she emotes just touches you.
There are hints of patriarchal mindset and gender inequality when Manas doesn’t approve of his wife wanting to take up a job to support his income, but that never reaches a point that it goes off-track. So when you see Pratima taking up a part-time job of a masseuse for rich women or a cleaner at a mall, there’s a sense of empowerment than helplessness. The only thing I wish Das explored a bit more was Manas and his equation with his kids. A scene where Manas is asked by his daughter why he chose this profession over anything else because she is embarrassed that he went to deliver at her Principal’s house could have been more moving if there was a deeper conversation between the two rather than a dialogue that feeding people is a holy deed. Or when his son shows interest in singing and dancing to rap that he composes, we never see that track being further devled into.
However, adding depth and emotions to the characters and their stories, Sagar Desai’s unique background score is just so apt and adds life to the whole narrative. Watch Zwigato to enjoy a slice of life of people whom we don’t credit as much as we should. It might not be a perfect film, but definitely starts a conversation about the flawed system that this service class bears with but still there is very little being done to fix it.