Man of the match

June 26, 2022

Jersey is a recently released movie on Netflix starring Shahid Kapoor

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ersey, a Hindi remake of a National Award-winning Telugu sports drama, made its digital debut on Netflix, after several delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It features Shahid Kapoor as a talented cricketer from Chandigarh named Arjun Talwar, and Mrunal Thakur as Talwar’s wife Vidya Talwar. Jersey also stars Pankaj Kapur as cricket coach Madhav Sharma, and Ronit Kamra as Talwar’s son. This is Shahid Kapoor’s first release after his blockbuster romantic drama Kabir Singh.

The film tells the story of a brilliant cricketer with a high batting average. Following the 1985-86 Duleep Trophy finals, he awaits the news of his selection for the Indian national team, only to be disappointed by a misprint of his name. Nursing a crucial secret which curbs his sporting ambitions, he decides to quit playing the sport and ends up working in the food sector. However, things begin to fall apart around him as he is charged with corruption, although he is innocent, leaving him with an unstable income stream. Residing in a decrepit house in Chandigarh, with his wife Vidya, his family struggles to survive on Vidya’s income as a hotel receptionist, as Arjun becomes helpless. This causes a strain on their relationship. Along this journey, Arjun goes through emotional turmoil and confrontations with his wife.

Arjun’s son Kittu loves playing cricket, much like his father. The kid wishes to get a jersey of the Indian national team for his upcoming birthday. In his late 30s, Arjun is determined to return to the field compelled by the yearning to represent the Indian men’s cricket team in order to live up to his son’s wish for a jersey as a gift, and to redeem himself by making his son proud. Arjun attempts to get one, but since it is too expensive, he then tries to borrow the jersey, all in vain. Vidya rubbishes his request for money. His friends make an effort to pool funds for it but fall short. In the meantime, Arjun’s previous coach Baali Sir reaches out to him to inform him about an imminent charity match between Punjab and New Zealand, with players’ fees included. New Zealand bat remarkably well, setting a high target for Punjab. Punjab seem to be losing, with hardly any runs on the board and wickets falling quickly, until Arjun is sent in and plays impressively. He is praised for his brilliant batting. However, he is disheartened to know that the players’ fees are going to charity as well. Arjun tells Baali Sir that he wants to return to the sport. Officials are sceptical but Arjun practices relentlessly. Finally, he is selected for the upcoming Ranji Trophy. Despite all odds, he takes the team to victory. In the end, a journalist ends up penning down his biography, and titles it Jersey.

Shahid Kapoor once again proves his mettle, enacting his part as cricketer, lover and father with notable credibility. Despite heartwarming moments and great performances, Jersey worked against logical loopholes and a sense of déjà vu.

The story stays loayal to the Telugu version that came out in 2019, with little tweaks and renderings for the Hindi audience. With his Hindi directorial debut, Gowtam Tinnanuri received a positive reception from critics and praise for Shahid Kapoor’s performance. However, it received a lukewarm response overall, especially when one compares it to the mammoth numbers churned by releases like RRR and Yash’s KGF: Chapter 2. It inclines towards emotive performance. It could have struck a finer balance between athletic and human drama, leaving a lot of room for innovation. The couple’s romance and their struggle to convince her South Indian father to marry the daughter into a Punjabi household get a tad farfetched, lacking intricacy and intrigue. The director’s attempts to infuse trivial humour using typical tropes of differences between North and South Indian cultures, fall flat.

Shahid Kapoor once again proves his mettle, enacting his part as cricketer, lover and father with notable credibility. Despite some heart-warming moments and great performances, Jersey works against logical loopholes and a sense of déjà vu. More than cricket, Jersey emphasises the dynamics of relationships - between a father and a son, a husband and a wife, a player and a coach, a failed cricketer and his friends and that lends a stunning depth to the film. A shorter two-hour film would have been ideal, but Jersey is still an easy to watch feel-good movie.

The author is the publishing editor at Liberty Books.

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