Jersey Film Review: Sentimental Game
The film is admirable as it goes about debunking “ageism”. That there is no right age for anything, that you are free to do whatever you want at any stage in your life
For a cricket-illiterate viewer like yours truly, Gowtam Tinnanuri’s Jersey, showcases Shahid Kapoor as one of Bollywood’s able batsmen. Not only does he appear to play some good matches on screen and fires away many elegant shots from his bat, but there is something nicely simmering about his performance as Arjun, a 36-year-old former cricketer, who decides to return to the field, ten years after giving up the game; that too not as a coach but a player. The motivation is to get the Indian Jersey for his son, which his financial condition wouldn’t allow him otherwise.
I haven’t seen Tinnanuri’s original in Telugu, but found the remake an engaging, if protracted watch. It’s the foreseeable yet entirely avoidable twist in the tale that makes the film end with an inopportune whimper instead of a rightful crescendo.
Tinnanuri relocates the action to Chandigarh and captures the Punjabi flavour, people, language, and culture in an authentic but relatively muted manner. A welcome departure from the overly rambunctious way it gets served incessantly in film after film.
The renunciation of cricket means a life less than ordinary for Arjun. In fact, it’s about life dealing bad cards to him. Be it when he is gambling with friends or getting suspended from work on false charges of bribery and corruption. It is bound to have repercussions on his love, marriage, relationships, and family as well. The bluster and machismo of the youth don’t quite mature well. And no one would know that better than the woman who must deal with it every day as the man keeps sitting on the couch doing nothing but watch cricket on TV. As Vidya (Mrunal Thakur), his wife tells him, running away from the problem is not a solution, giving up is not the answer, even as he is resentful of her seeming unreasonableness and the lack of confidence in him.
On a side note, mostly due to the similar bearded getup of Shahid Kapoor and the fact that he is called Arjun, I was amused at how the film felt like an unintended pointer to what could happen to Kabir Singhs (or Arjun Reddys) when they continue to drift aimlessly like—as the film puts it—dangar (livestock) and bailon ka jhund (herd of bulls) way into their lives. Well, the wind will eventually get taken out of the manly sails. Rightly so.
So, back to Arjun, salvation, and happiness, for him, ultimately, are in the game. And he has to return to what he had decided to never look back at.
Shahid with his bottled-up restlessness, rage and frustrations is quite a compelling picture of both moroseness and melancholia and later determination and confidence as he embraces the game again. Even in the team we find him framed separate from the crowd, in his own sad and lonesome space.
He gains with the presence of another impeccable actor Pankaj Kapoor, his real-life father who plays his mentor, confidante, coach, and default dad in the film with his signature effortlessness.
The film is admirable as it goes about debunking “ageism”. That there is no right age for anything, that you are free to do whatever you want at any stage in your life. Its portrayal of seizing success in the face of failure is just as inspirational.
The film also held promise in its depiction of the politics of selection and the implications it could have on the lives, professional as well as personal, of the talented ones who are denied a chance to pad up and play.
Wish it had gone whole hog on these thematic routes. However, it is the needless insertion of a medical twist, in what feels like an afterthought of an end that takes away from whatever fire there is in the film’s belly and turns it into more saccharine sentiments than sporting spirit.