'The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction', early on in Vandana Kataria's Noblemen, Murli (Kunal Kapoor), a dramatics teacher enacts this dialogue from William Shakespeare's 'The Merchant Of Venice' to a bunch of students. At one point, he even tells them, 'Theatre imitates life,' unaware that one of the students out there would soon put this into reality.
The film opens at Mount Noble High, a posh all-boys boarding school where Shay Sharma (Ali Haji) and his 'Robin' Ganzi aka Ganesh (Hardik Thakker) often find themselves getting bullied by their seniors, Arjun (Ali Mir) and Baadal (Shaan Grover).
Things take an ugly turn when Shay refuses to let go of the part of Bassanio in the Founders' Day play, which Baadal is keen to play. When their dramatics teacher Murli (Kunal Kapoor) casts Baadal as Shay's understudy in the play, the bully intensifies until it robs Shay of his innocence and the boy sets out to extract 'revenge' which leads to 'dark' events.
To begin with, debutante director Vandana Kataria needs to take a bow for taking up a hard-hitting subject and keeping it as raw and real as possible. Her narrative is held up by threads which deal with important themes like bullying, drug abuse, peer pressure, homosexuality, homophobia and toxic masculinity.
At times, you makes you makes you uncomfortable in your seats with the graphic violence, but that's much needed. There's nothing black and white in this disturbing world.
On the flipside, the film loses its steam at places and slows down, but the performances makes sure you don't lose your attention.
You saw Ali Haji play the cute son Rehaan to Aamir Khan-Kajol in Aditya Chopra's Fanaa. Now, watch him as Shy in 'Noblemen'. This boy takes you by a huge surprise and how! As his character in the film gets darker with each bullying episode, you can't help drawing comparisons between his character and Shylock (Merchant Of Venice).
Just like the play, it's hard to decide whether he's the hero or the antagonist by the time the last frame rolls. Equally impressive is Hardik Thakker who plays his friend Ganesh.
You loathe Ali Mir's character Arjun and that's where his victory lies. Shaan Grover as Baadal gives you equal moments of laugh and hate. Muskaan Jaffery as Pia is effective in her part. Kunal Kapoor and Soni Razdan too fit perfectly into Shay's world.
The cinematography never puts an filter in this world that's disturbing at every level. Simranjeet Malhotra's editing scissors could have been a little more sharper.
Vandana Kataria's Noblemen is not for the faint-hearted. It's grim, factual and most importantly, indispensable. I am going with 3 stars.