The film is set in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. It explores the life of Manas, an ex-factory floor manager and his family. After losing his job, Manas is forced to work as a food delivery rider, grappling with the app on his phone and the world of ratings and incentives. He struggles to make ends meet for his wife, two children and an ailing mother. Simultaneously, Pratima, a homemaker, begins to explore different work opportunities to support the income.
The fears of a new experience are coupled with the joys of a newfound independence. It is the story of the relentlessness of life for Manas and Pratima, but not without their shared moments of joy. The film captures the lives of invisible ‘ordinary’ people that are hidden in plain sight.
Zwigato was born out of a conversation with a friend about the rise in unemployment. It was meant to be a short film. But Sameer Nair of Applause Entertainment nudged me to expand it to a full-length feature film. I first thought it would be challenging to humanise the world of algorithms, ratings and incentives, without making it expositional. But as I delved deeper into it, the story became not just about the gig economy but also about the growing disparity in class, caste, religion and gender, which has all become so normalised. All of this got subtly interwoven in the story of Manas and Pratima, and the world they inhabit.
The film is a homage to Charles Chaplin's Modern Times. It was made in the 1930s, at the height of industrialization and captured the deep-seated anxiety about the tussle between man and machines. Today we face a similar struggle between man and algorithms. The gig economy has become one of the largest employment sectors but also has posed new challenges for its workers.
Zwigato is a slice-of-life film. A mirror to what is all around us but remains invisible. It invokes empathy for those who make our life easier but remain hidden in plain sight. The treatment is candid and life-like. Kapil Sharma, popular as a comedy host, plays the protagonist with intensity and a seriousness seldom seen before. I teamed up again after Firaaq with Shahana Goswami, a powerful versatile actor, to play the female protagonist. They both, along with three special appearances (to be revealed soon!) are the more known faces. The rest are all local actors from Odisha, with varying degrees of acting experience. Many faced the camera for the very first time. Together they all have helped in creating an authentic world, which is all so familiar, and yet, remains unseen. I feel the story is timely, universal and deserves to be told.
Year : 2022
Language : Hindi & Odiya
World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), 2022.
Asian Premiere at Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), 2022.
Indian premiere at International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), 2022.