Zwigato is the 2023 film written by Nandita Das and Samir Patil, and directed by acclaimed performer and filmmaker Nandita Das. This film, which stars Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami, is one of the most keenly observed and intelligent Hindi-language independent films to come out in some time. This excellently helmed and acted treatise on the social, economic, and cultural state of contemporary India comments on a multitude of urgent topics, including commercialization, the gig economy, social stratification, the role of women in the workforce, amongst many others. Director Nandita Das practices immense restraint in her perceptive look on a changing country, as seen through the eyes of a food delivery app driver. In particular, the film’s focus on socioeconomic marginalization rings a relevant and true chord in a way that few filmmakers have recently been able to hit on. It’s great help that the film is aided by an astonishingly fantastic turn by Kapil Sharma and an even stronger turn by Shahana Goswami. Zwigato is the type of grounded indie filmmaking that seemed like it had gone extinct; thankfully, director Nandita Das resurrects it with confidence and craft.
Kapil Sharma, who is extremely well-known for his late-night style comedy show The Kapil Sharma Show, seems at first to be the most left-field choice for the role. Yet, Sharma (whose previous film credits have been underwhelming) gives a truly solid and understated performance as Manas, a food app delivery driver trying to stay afloat. Sharma is surprisingly soulful and earnest in his performance, and his “everyday humor” comedic sensibility likely lent itself well to tackling this grounded character. Shahana Goswami is also absolutely terrific as Pratima, who struggles to find her way as a masseuse for wealthier clients. Goswami is such a natural and intuitive performer, and her turn here hopefully acts as a great calling card for future roles.
Zwigato is very much a film of the current times, not only because it features a food delivery app driver, but because of what the characters’ experiences imply for the whole of India. Director Nandita Das crafts level-headed and sharp observations through small interactions; in a pivotal scene, a man asks whether food delivery is something that one can do on a bicycle – it’s a telling and thought-provoking sequence. The film is chock full of intriguing comments on the current nature of Indian culture and economy, and they are done in a subtle and naturalistic way that is so refreshing to see. After a string of loud-mouthed Hindi film releases, the intellect and importance of Zwigato is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Despite the slightly hammy but still gentle ending, Zwigato is a necessary commentary on a country that is grappling with a complicated sense of identity.
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