‘Blue Star’ movie review: Ashok Selvan, Shanthnu knock it out of the park in this powerful sports drama

‘Blue Star’ is a compelling socio-political sports drama with a solid narrative that is consistent with its theme and some truly commendable performances that bring it home

January 25, 2024 06:00 pm | Updated 11:03 pm IST

Keerthi Pandian and Ashok Selvan in a still from ‘Blue Star’

Keerthi Pandian and Ashok Selvan in a still from ‘Blue Star’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Blame the state of sports dramas, when you hear someone speak of a story demonstrating how sports can bring people together, you are already eager to ask, “What else?” That the genre already loses out on audiences who are irked with knowing who wins in the end, and that even the journey to the showdown often sticks to a template, make sports dramas harder to crack. And yet, with 2021’sSarpatta Parambarai, Pa Ranjith and writer Tamizh Prabha proved that the best sports dramas are those that use sports as a lens to look beyond the horizon. Sports also doubles up as a unifying platform that breaks social hierarchy and puts to test the scientific temper of its participants. Sarpatta was a period boxing drama that examined human behaviour in a milieu and drew parallels to the barbaric hatred that social evils continue to condition people with.

Everything about Blue Star — presented by Ranjith, written by Tamizh and writer-director S Jayakumar — pointed towards one such social examination through a story on cricket, and the film is all that and more. Starring Ashok Selvan and Shanthnu Bhagyaraj as two angsty youngsters from rival communities locking horns on and off the cricket ground, Blue Star is a serious film telling a grounded tale that, for over 160 minutes, immerses you into a world so real, so familiar and so imperfect, that nothing shakes you off its spell.

Let’s start with one of the many striking images that you are left with after watching Blue Star. It’s a seemingly ordinary, light-hearted moment between Rajesh (Shanthnu) and Ranjith (Ashok) near a well; the former utters something casual, Ranjith stares back at him, the audiences break into laughter, and yet, you feel a slight tug in your heart. You are not only reminded of what the film stands for but you are subtly reminded that these two characters that we’ve been following for over two hours are in fact just young, decent boys with their own worlds and desires.

Ashok Selvan and Shanthnu in a still from ‘Blue Star’

Ashok Selvan and Shanthnu in a still from ‘Blue Star’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It just so happens that one, Ranjith, is from an underprivileged community (the young uns from here are called colony pasanga”), while Rajesh is a rich brat Romeo from a privileged community (“oor theru pasanga”). What’s common between them is their love for cricket; Ranjith, his brother Sam (Prithvi Rajan), and friends form the Blue Star team while Rajesh and his friends are the Alpha Boys. However, due to some bitter blood between the two communities, you wouldn’t find the two teams playing at the same time or with each other at their Arakkonam playground.

However, due to his own actions, Rajesh soon begins to understand that the superiority, command and pride that he’s conditioned to enjoy are from a rot that runs deep and far in his world and that caste is merely one of its many manifestations. A force that disregards both these clans as inferior emerges and the film takes on a pivotal turn.

Blue Star (Tamil)
Director: S Jayakumar
Cast: Ashok Selvan, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, Keerthi Pandian, Prithvi Rajan
Runtime: 167 minutes
Storyline: Two cricket teams representing two rival communities are forced to look beyond their enmity when a bigger oppressive power challenges them

Though the cricket aspect of it is a hit out of the park, Blue Star isn’t too particularly showy on that front even when it could have succumbed to temptations to make things seem ‘cool’ or gimmicky. The writing is invested in the arcs of Rajesh and Ranjith and the bigger ideological clash that shadows them — that of Gopalan, Rajesh’s uncle who reeks of casteism, and Immanuel (Bhagavathy Perumal), a former Blue Star cricketer who believes that sports can cure the hatred that is seeped deep into the hearts of these youngsters. The densely packed screenplay finds space — deservedly so — even for secondary characters to make a mark, like Immanuel, or Ranjith’s parents, or an Alpha Boys team member called Venkatesh, or to date the coolest cricketer on screen, Bullet Babu.

The most noteworthy of subplots is reserved for Anandhi (Keerthi Pandian), Ranjith’s love interest; of all the countless sports dramas in which the female lead is reduced to a mere cheerleader, Anandhi is a breath of fresh air. Apart from being a source of strength to Ranjith, she also becomes a spirited advocate for empowering women to take up sports. Anandhi and Ranjith’s story also becomes yet another look at how casteism directly or indirectly affects the underprivileged’s fight against oppression, and even the ambiguities in this arc only tell us more about the time and space these characters live in.

Shouldering this film with sheer swag, charisma and invested performances are Ashok and Shanthnu. Shanthnu finds himself in a character arc that is straight out of an actor’s dream and Ashok as Ranjith is sheer force as a young man you simply wish you could befriend. Both the actors are terrific in scenes that have them display their vulnerabilities or put to test their egos.

In one of the most pivotal scenes of Blue Star, Bhagavathy Perumal’s Immanuel speaks about what Blue Star and Alpha Boys truly achieved in their journey with cricket, and how it should reflect on their lives off the ground. Making a film like Blue Star is one such, if not bigger, achievement in mainstream cinema. And it’s yet another feather in the cap of Pa Ranjith, the mastermind instrumental in transforming the zeitgeist towards a cinema movement that calls for equality, peace and love for all.

Blue Star is currently running in theatres

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