Jersey (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A cricketer who quits cricket decides to revive his career at the age of 36 for his sons dream and prove his ability.

My Take – The remake trend continues with this latest Shahid Kapoor-starrer, which following several postponements and delays finally hit the screens three days ago.

A remake of the 2019 National award winning Telugu sports drama of the same name, which featured Nani and Shraddha Srinath in pivotal roles, and earned immense popularity for its story of a sportsperson deciding to follow his dream while navigating his tumultuous relationship as a father and a husband. A tale of second chances, of keeping the human spirit alive despite the adversities and the sacrifices one makes to manifest his dreams.

While remakes often face the challenge of being unfavorably compared, thankfully here, returning writer-director Gowtam Tinnauri (in his Hindi debut) manages to maintain the essence of his original, making sure we root for his protagonist once again, both on and off the field.

Sure, being a faithful remake, it leaves those who have watched the original with a sense of familiarity, and doesn’t deviate much from the tropes that have come to associate with the genre.

Nevertheless, the film’s poignant story line manages to touches heart, irrespective of whether you are a cricket fan or not, and its performances, especially that of Shahid Kapoor, keeps you invested in the emotional core of the beautiful father-son relationship.

Set between the 1980s and 90s, the story follows Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapoor), an exceptionally talented batsman and a prolific run-scorer who at the age of 26 just quit, never to return to the cricket field. Ten years later, left unemployed and almost penniless, after being sacked from his government job under suspension for bribery, Arjun is beyond the comprehension of the man himself and his long-time coach and mentor Madhav (Pankaj Kapur).

Meanwhile his wife, Vidya (Mrunal Thakur), a Chandigarh hotel employee, has taken over the financial burden of running the house, and wants to Arjun to redeem himself by proving his innocence and wrest back his job.

However, Arjun is jolted back to life when he finds himself struggling to gather the money required to buy a Team India jersey his son Ketan (Ronit Kamra) requested for his birthday because the boy believes he will be the school team captain if he sports one. With support from Madhav, who continues to believe in his protege even when the world has given up on him, Arjun decides to bounce back into the cricket field with grit and determination, that too at an age most retire.

Arjun’s efforts to stage a comeback several years past his prime drive the rest of the story. Here, director Gowtam Tinnanuri sticks to his original plot and treatment as far as the film goes, the setting and characters are now in North India.

As the story suggests, the narrative beats of this underdog sports drama are largely familiar. But the story reaches its potential due to the meticulously written screenplay, which despite beginning on a slow note, setting the stage for bigger things. The underdog’s fight for redemption and honor, a tough coach, training montages and a nail-biting last ball victory, all have been obediently incorporated here, and yet the film truly comes alive only when it moves away from the match sequences and explores the relationship dynamics that form the beating heart of the story.

Despite its overly simplistic moorings, the film has emotional heft because the father’s desire to live up to his son’s expectations is palpable and essential, if devoid of complexity. Arjun’s negotiations with his wife, on the other hand, are marked by ambiguity and elements of uncertainty. Arjun’s angst, his guilt, his frustration with life and watching it pass him by make him one of the most relatable characters.

Especially when his wife, who earns, cooks and runs the household, has to relay basic instructions to her husband. 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 cannot.

Another relationship that is wonderfully explored here between Arjun and his coach, who had spotted him in the gullies of Chandigarh when he was 13 and honed him into a master batsman. It’s the preciousness of what Arjun shares with these two men, an old coach and his own child that elevates this Gowtam Tinnanuri directorial from being just any other cricket film.

Even the cricket choreography is near perfect with actual cricket shots devoid of any visual effects. In-fact, the style of shooting the sport as also the technicalities of batting and bowling are a lot better than most of the cricket based films. On the flip side, I wasn’t too convinced with the climax, which drops a bomb revelation that just felt too rushed.

Without a doubt the film belongs to Shahid Kapoor, who delivers an outstanding performance as the frustrated and helpless Arjun, who has been written off by everybody. He underplays himself in the first half and brings in the inherent swag in the flashback portions. There is no gap in the transition from an explosive player to a doting father grappling with his inner demons. While the film promos gave a hangover of Kabir Singh (2019) in his performance, there is a stark difference between the two worlds.

Pankaj Kapur delivers a realistic portrayal here, with his inclusion in the film being a fantastic casting choice, for the on-screen chemistry between the real-life father and son is easy and effervescent. Mrunal Thakur delivers her part effectively, and seems to be getting better with each film. Ronit Kamra makes for a confident child actor and shines in the father-son bonding moments. On the whole, ‘Jersey’ is a well-told sport drama that rides on Shahid Kapoor‘s superlative performance.

Directed –

Starring – Shahid Kapoor, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Kapur

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 170 minutes

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