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Movie Review: Noblemen

Banners: Yoodle Films

Producers: Vikram Mehra, Siddharth Anand Kumar  

Director: Vandana Kataria

Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Ali Haji, Mohammad Ali Mir, Muskkaan Jaferi, Shaan Grover, Hardik Thakkar, MK Raina, Soni Razdan, Ivan Rodrigues

Writers: Sunil Drego, Sonia Bahl, Vandana Kataria

Music: Shri Sriram

Whenever we think of stories set in boarding schools, the images that come to mind are about bitter-sweet relationships, tight friendships, rivalry between the stud of the school, the simple boy-next-door… and so forth. Yes, we have had stories about love and loss, issues and problems but there is always a line that this genre does not cross. Despite the title Noblemen, the film delves into a dark narrative that shakes the conscience.

Noble High, a picture-perfect all-boys school, is located in the mountains. Yes, there are a few girls, but they are daughters of the faculty. So, primarily, it is a school high on testosterone. In the midst of all this is Shay Sharma, a sweet young tenth standard boy. His friends are Pia and Ganesh aka Ganzu. Of course, which boarding school is without bullies… and here we have Arjun and Baaadal, who are twelfth standard students.

Shay loves dramatics and is excited when he is chosen to play Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice for the school’s 150th Founders Day. Of course, he is excited about the play but he is even happier that it will give him a chance to spend time with his dramatics teacher Murali, on whom he seems to have a crush. Now, Baaadal, also wants to play Bassanio. This is not because he loves Shakespeare, but because the role of Portia is played by Pia. When he is not able to convince Murali to cast him instead of Shay, with the help of Arjun he starts bullying Shay so that he can force him to quit the play.

While trying to face the bullies and coming to terms with his sexuality, Shay faces some severe challenges. The incidents that follow are shocking, dark and disturbing, and shake the very core of Shay’s personality.

Staying away from the sweet and rosy picture of boarding schools, Vandana Kataria addresses the issues of bullying, homosexuality and homophobia in all their rawness. Though the screenplay, especially in the climax, seems a little far-fetched and seems to be there for shock value, it does deliver the intended impact. A huge plus is the dialogue. Most of it is in English, but the writers have successfully managed to get the lingo right.

For such a sensitive and hard-hitting story, performances are key and everyone delivers on point. Ali Haji as Shay has done a wonderful job. He surrenders completely to the character and gets the nuances and emotions beautifully. 

Kunal Kapoor as Murali is impressive. He brings dignity to his performance. He is authentic and sensitive in his approach. Muskkaan Jaferi as Pia and Hardik Thakker as Ganesh have done a good job. Mohammad Ali Mir as Arjun and Shaan Grover as Baaadal play their parts effectively, though in some places they seem a tad over-dramatic. Soni Razdan as Shay’s mother, Ivan Rodrigues as the deputy headmaster and M K Raina as the headmaster are decent.

Verdict: Worth a watch

Rating: ***

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