Jersey Hindi Movie
Most Hindi films about cricket are biopics, but Jersey is a fictional movie. Writer-director Gowtam Tinnanuri's film is about domestic cricketer Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapoor) who dreams of representing India at the highest level. It can also resemble the stories of several cricketers who strive at the domestic level to be Indian players. Some players succeed in realizing their national ambitions, but others fail at it.
There is one thing you automatically know when going into a theater for a Hindi film about cricket: It might be a story about a man's triumph against all odds or an underdog's story. The arc of a cricket movie in Hindi cinema involves a series of lows followed by a sequence of highs. Jersey is mostly loyal to that Hindi film formula. It means that the film begins by showing Talwar as a common man who turns to his wife to make ends meet. The movie then works its way backwards to show us what turned this once-famous cricketer into an ordinary joe.
It is understandable why a film like Jersey cannot escape some of the cliches or conventions associated with the genre. After all, who would want to make a film about a cricketer who fails at everything he does to represent India? That would be a counterproductive movie as the point of cricket cinema is to make the audience feel proud of the real-life character or capitalize on nationalistic sentiments.
One of the strengths and weaknesses of Jersey is that it is quite low-key. As it is no biopic, Talwar's story does not seem as personal to cricket fans as, say, MS Dhoni's story or a Sachin Tendulkar's tale. After all, Talwar is a fictional character, so it is not like the makers have an obligation to avoid deviating from facts here. It is also unlikely to make people take up cricket the same way as, say, a Kaun Pravin Tambe? does because Talwar is not a cricketer.
This poses some challenges to the makers, including making the story of Talwar relatable to us at a personal level. Tinnanuri uses some conventional ways to make it relatable to us, including a lovely relationship between a father and his son. The only thing Talwar's son asks his father is an Indian jersey from a local sports store, but the man fails to meet the kid's wish for financial reasons.
There is also a conventional relationship crisis between Talwar and his wife, Mrunal Thakur's Vidya. Here, too, Jersey feels familiar in that it deals with almost the same issues as another recent cricket film such as Kaun Pravin Tambe?. Like in Kaun Pravin Tambe?, the wife of the protagonist does not trust her husband to make it big in cricket and would rather see him take up more responsibility at home, but the man wants to pursue his passion no matter what.
There is little new or out-of-the-box in terms of the issues that Jersey deals with. There is also a potentially poignant climax with a twist, but it does not seem as powerful as it can be as the writing is not original enough.
Nevertheless, what holds the film together are its performances, the cricket scenes as well as Sachet-Parampara and Anirudh Ravichander's music, including gems like 'Jind Meriye'. Child actor Ronit Kamra is a real find and shows a great deal of maturity for his role. Mrunal Thakur is competitive enough to keep Vidya from being a one-note character. Pankaj Kapoor is terrific here as a coach who acts as a father figure to Shahid Kapoor's character. The real-life father-son relationship between both characters seems to have benefitted the movie greatly. But the headliner here is Shahid Kapoor. The actor is quite competent in the cricket scenes and summons all the right emotions for each situation. The film seldom misses a beat when it focuses on these actors.
The running commentary here is still quite ordinary as it only serves to underline why Talwar is a great talent. Nevertheless, the cricket portions also worked quite well for me. The makers use little to no slow-motion sequences for the cricket matches in the movie and most of the performers appear professional cricketers. I have not seen the Telugu version of this movie, so I cannot compare both films.