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‘Champion’ movie review: Relegation material

‘Champion’ only champions the cause for Susienthiran to script better films  

There cannot be a more confused storyteller than Susienthiran in Tamil cinema at the moment.

How else do you explain etching a character who is subjected to banal comments that one has, by now, come to expect in a film based in north Chennai, and then proceeds to live out the rest of the film as the very definition of the stereotype?

Sample this: Champion’s protagonist Jones (Vishwa) is a talented footballer and an uber polite person. When he walks into a football academy at the start of the film, a coach asks him “blade poduviya?” and “ganja poduviya?” after Jones reveals he is from north Chennai. The comments are met with vehement opposition from Jones and his friends, and rightfully so. Yet for the remainder of the film, Jones is shown to develop into an aggressive character, who does not flinch or hesitate a bit when he has to pick up a dagger.

Champion is also an assault on your senses. There is the odd scissors-kick and the bicycle kick, but not enough to bring back memories of Atlee’s atrocious misrepresentation of the game of football in the tragicomedy that was Bigil. The film is a melange of elements like adolescent romance, boundless passion for a sport, and emotions like ‘amma sentiment’, fear and revenge among others. But these elements does not transpire off the big screen to create any sort of impact on the viewer, and would leave the audience feeling disenchanted with what is unfolding on the screen.

Champion
  • Director: Susienthiran
  • Cast: Vishwa, Narain, Mirunalini, Manoj Bharathiraja
  • Story line: A talented footballer puts his life and career on the line after being consumed by his thirst for revenge on the man responsible for killing his father

Narain, as coach Santha, seems to have put his best foot forward but his performances are overshadowed by pedestrian dialogues. For instance, “Football is not an individual game, it is a team game” is not something you would find in Wikipedia or in a Quora discussion about the game of football.

Santha uses this dialogue to tell Jones to pass the ball to his team mates and not be selfish. Compare this to a sequence from the not-so-memorable film Goal! (2005), where the lead character Santiago Muñez is told by his manager why it is essential to pass the ball to his teammates. It is also an unfair comparison because Goal! was about football and the struggles of a footballer. Susienthiran, like Atlee and Kumaran (director of Jada) before him, only uses football as a means to add variety to the protagonist’s character sketch.

It leads to the question — why use it at all? Circle back to one of Susienthiran’s earlier films, Jeeva (2014), and the use of cricket was justified in it since he encapsulated other elements required of a Tamil commercial film within the confines of a sports-driven script. Here, the narrative gives space for so many loose ends — like a misconceived tale of romance that only exists to add a couple of songs, and the few moments of heroism written for Narain in the climax, who, until that point, was presented as a character to guide and motivate the protagonist. Even the background score seemed to create the opposite effect of what a scene was supposed to convey. It is incredible how so many things can go wrong with a film.

The use of lacklustre dialogues, which have become commonplace in Susienthiran’s films, is now a matter of grave concern. It becomes a huge problem, especially, when the said film has no superlative frames or commanding performances by actors with great screen presence that is worth talking about.

Champion only champions the cause for Susienthiran to script better films.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 1:25:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/champion-movie-review-relegation-material/article30295524.ece

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