It is heartening to watch a film that goes beyond the super success stories in sport and captures the personal struggle of a cricketer who defies age to beat the odds. The delayed release of Jersey willmean that some audiences have recently watched Kaun Pravin Tambe?, the story of a real-life local cricketer who makes his IPL debut at 40.
This does take away some of the thematic novelty from the Gowtam Tinnanuri film starring Shahid Kapoor.
A remake of the director’s 2019 Telugu film of the same name, Jersey follows the life of an exceptionally talented Ranji player, Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapur), who quits cricket at 26 but returns to the sport after a decade due to certain circumstances.
Those who have watched the original, as this writer has, will feel a sense of deja vu. Having said that, the performances keep you invested as the emotional core of the story remains undiluted in its Punjabi flavour.
Set between the 1980s and 90s, the story is less about the game and more about relationships and the quirks of fate. It is about a father’s covalent bond with his son. Arjun wants to salvage the hero that the son Kitu (Ronit Kamra) sees in his father. It is about the fault lines that have emerged between Arjun and his wife Vidya (Mrunal Thakur) because of the financial stress. It is also about his relationship with his coach Madhav (Pankaj Kapur), who continues to believe in his protege when the world has given up on him.
Gowtam uses the fissures in these bonds to make us experience life as it is. The moral and emotional dilemmas of Arjun give goosebumps. He is like a fish out of water who wants to adapt to terrestrial life, but cannott.
Like Nani from the Telugu original, Shahid makes sense of Arjun. He excels both as a river in spate and a latent volcano. There is no gap in the transition from an explosive player to a doting father grappling with his inner demons. And who can write off Shahid’s innate charm that is getting even more infectious with age? Those who whistled for Kabir Singh would require more than a handkerchief this time!
Mrunal is getting better with each outing and like Toofan, here again, she provides the surround sound to Arjun’s voice. There are plenty of heartwarming moments in the film but it is the unalloyed banter between Shahid and his father Pankaj that outshines everything.
However, those who understand cricket and the politics around it would find the obstacles that Gowtam places in the path of Arjun unconvincing. The intrinsic logic doesn’t hold and suspension of disbelief is hard to sustain for almost three hours.
To heighten the emotional aspect of the narrative, the writer has taken a little too much liberty. It is hard to believe the authorities would allow a shining cricket star of the domestic arena with an impeccable record fade into oblivion. The big reveal towards the end fails to paper over the cracks in logic. Shahid’s cover drives are a treat to watch but beyond that, the action on the field is club-like. Curiously, the 10-year gap has not created any doubts in the mind of a stroke player who essentially thrives on hand-eye coordination. Like in life, Arjun’s struggle in the corridor of uncertainty would have kept him human on the field as well. Overall, a film whose heart is in the right place but whose mind is a bit slow.
Jersey is currently running in theatres