Shahid Kapoor scores high in Jersey

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Shahid Kapoor and Mrunal Thakur in Jersey Photo: Raindrop Media

The original film, reportedly 10 minutes shorter, won the National award for Best Telugu Film and Best Editing. Though this film has the same editor, it is unlikely that it will pick up these two trophies, for it is definitely too slow and languid for today’s audiences, given the material.

Having said that, the film can definitely be in the running as of now for Best Actor, as Shahid Kapoor delivers what is arguably his career-best performance. As the (almost) ever-calm cricketer Arjun Talwar, who is an ace in his field but inexplicably leaves the game at 26, Shahid is extraordinary, and the magic lies in his getting so deep into the role that for almost the entire movie, one thinks of him only as the character, not the star-actor.

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In fact, he lifts this remake several notches so that it is eminently watchable despite the length. It is difficult to judge which Arjun is best—the one with the seeming attitude, the exuberant boyfriend and husband, the dedicated father, or the traumatized ex-cricketer who is unemployed as well. He is equally brilliantly at home as the hurt spouse, the frustrated soul or the basically gentle and soft-spoken cricketer who has to make his mark—at the age of 36—amidst younger players who are more suited for professional matches.

Shades of Kaun Pravin Tambe here, as well as the recent 83, but another strong area where this film scores over them both is in the human drama, as it coems across as a saga of relationships more than a mere sports movie. After Arjun’s biggest comeback triumph (expected in a sports drama) comes a twist—and that is the emotional highlight of this little wonder that could have truly been a masterpiece had the director not made the film so lengthy.

Make no mistake: Jersey is an immensely well-directed film, and Gowtam Tinnaruri’s grasp of the subject begins to show, along with Shahid’s, from the very beginning. The situations and lines are so lifelike and endearing, and Arjun’s son Ketan (Ronit Kamra) is just the right and believable amalgam of a cute, persistent but instinctively mature young boy.

Mrunal Thakur as the beleaguered wife Vidhya (she is of South Indian origin) is excellently underplayed, and her expressive eyes add to the performance. Pankaj Kapur is superlatively in sync as coach Madhav, though he tends to deliver his lines so softly and thus unintelligibly that one is tempted in these OTT-influenced times to increase the volume! His sequences, especially the humorous or sardonic ones with his real-life son Shahid, not only are the highlights but form the emotional and dramatic bulwark of this relationship (not sports) saga along with Arjun’s traumatic equation with the practical Vidhya and his no-holds-barred bond with son Ketan.

(That said, in the movie hall where I watched the film, there were English subtitles in the first half that disappeared post-interval! And it was the first show of the film!)

The other supporting cast is effective as well, with special marks to Arjun’s cronies, the actor who played the Chandigarh coach Rathi and Prit Kamani, who plays the older Ketan (the film is told in flashback).

So what is this flashback saga about? Like said earlier, Arjun, who is now unemployed and a cricketer who has quit the game for seemingly egoistic reasons, is especially frustrated as his seven year-old son has asked for a India team jersey for his birthday, and Arjun cannot afford even the 500 rupees that it costs. From here, the steps he takes to redeem himself in his son’s eyes (as he is the only one who does not judge him as an escapist) is what forms the story.

Anil Mehta’s camerawork, as always in his last few films, is good yet dated, and the background score by Anirudh Ravichander is alright. While one did not mind the mild Punjabi thrust in the dialogues (the film is based in Chandigarh and most of the actors too are real-life Punjabis), the lyrics, almost all in that language, are an irritant. The songs, which are supposed to be thematic and moving, are raucous and high-pitched, as is Hindi film music’s current (ab)normal  ‘track’-record (pun intended).

Watch this film for its powerful depiction of everyday emotions and relationships against the background of cricket. It does hit emotional sixers many a time, and one hopes that it fares even half as well as Shahid’s last release, Kabir Singh, in which the actor excelled as a deviant doctor.

But both these overlong films reinforce the way Shahid has grown—hugely—as an actor in 19 years since Ishq Vishq, which was itself a very mature performance for a debutant talent. But after Kabir Singhand this film, we want to see a clean-shaven Shahid now!

Rating: ***1/2

Allu Entertainment;’s, Dil Raju Productions’, Sithara Entertainment’s & Brat Films’ Jersey  Produced by: Dil Raju, Suryadevara Naga Vamsi & Aman Gill  Directed by: Gowtam Tinnanuri  Written by:Gowtam Tinnanuri & Siddharth–Garima Music: Sachet-Parampara  Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Kapur, Ronit Kamra, Geetika Mehandru, Prit Kamani, Rudrashish Majumdar, Rituraj Singh, Anjum Batra, Shanu Kumar, Hani Yadav, Sunil Saraswat & others

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