Nandita Das’ third feature film ‘Zwigato’ premiered at TIFF 2022. Starring Shahana Goswami and Kapil Sharma, the movie is a compelling tale about cherishing the little moments in life.
Manas is the newest member of the gig economy. After losing his job as a manager at a factory, he is left with no choice but to become a food delivery driver for Zwigato (a cheeky combination of Swiggy and Zomato). His wife Pratima (Shahana Goswami) is also planning to join the workforce with her first job as cleaner at the mall. Her excitement of finally gaining this independence is contrasted by Manas’ disdain at the idea. But his work, with unachievable incentives and ridiculous policies, isn’t getting any easier. And they could use the extra cash.
‘Zwigato’ is about the microaggressions faced by India’s working class, and their willingness to change and adapt to the times. The speed with which the landscape is changing is very rapid, so of course there are growing pains. Instead of dramatising their plight, the film’s narrative prefers to allude to a criticism of the shrinking employee rights, the ridiculous policies of corporate capitalism, and the suppression of political movements aimed at fixing the issue. Nandita Das chooses to address this by finding the comedy in the tragedy. There are some great gags here, like a recurring dream about a train, a complicated star ranking system Manas can’t seem to grasp, and a mystical SUGAM scheme he keeps dreaming about.
Kapil Sharma is perfectly cast because he portrays Manas with the humour and earnestness that is needed here. His approach is not condescending or pitiful, it is sweet, funny and incredibly real when needed. Das has taken one of India’s biggest stars and brought him down to the bare bones of his comedic instincts. Sharma understands the way humour is weaved into the story on an instinctual level, so he doesn’t overcompensate during the funny moments. He doesn’t ever need to be funny, because he IS funny.
Shahana Goswami can never give a bad performance it seems. She could be the next Naagin and get critical acclaim for that as well. Her chemistry with Sharma is so lived-in and genuine. We see him through her eyes, which are always filled with affection and respect for her partner (the scene with the broken alarm clock is such a great example of it). Pratima is on the verge of a new journey in her life, and Goswami nails the nervous excitement of her character perfectly.
‘Zwigato’ isn’t a perfect movie. In some ways it doesn’t go far enough to have a clear conclusion. But Das makes it clear right from the beginning that the goal here is the journey, the non-stop express train ride these characters are on. We’re just here to go through the bumps and stops with them.