Please don't let the overanalyses and needlessly complicated words fool you - the homo-sapiens writing these reviews are people too. We whistle when Super Star Rajni's name comes up on the silver screen, we begrudgingly laugh at poorly constructed toilet humour, and we want our favourite actors and directors to make good movies. And we have seen many an actor who captured our imagination fade into oblivion as time has gone by.
As much as it hurts us to say it, the very personable Natural Star was headed that last way too. Middle Class Abbayi
? Nenu Local
? Really? Were we about to lose another talented actor to the sands of soulless commercial blockbusters? "Someone help him before it's too late!" screamed hordes of cinema lovers.
Someone somewhere heard your pleas, film fans. Enter Gowtham Tinnanuri. He casts Nani as Arjun.
In 1986, Arjun was the crown jewel of the Hyderabad Ranji team. 1n 1996, Arjun is a man cricket has forgotten. 1n 1986, Arjun was one half of a gorgeous and happy couple. 1n 1996, Arjun is the bearded and broken part of a marriage seemingly held together by a love long forgotten. 1n 1986, Arjun's world looked as vast as the cricket ground he so adored. In 1996, Arjun's world has shrunk to the size of his modest, government-allotted home.
The one source of happiness for Arjun in his humble abode is his son. A precocious lad who shares his father's love of cricket. On his son's birthday, Arjun promises to buy him the latest jersey being worn by the Indian Cricket Team. The jersey costs 500 rupees. Arjun has two out of those three digits (we'll let you guess which one he doesn't). With no job, no income and no prospects, Arjun is staring down the barrel as he heads towards disappointing his child for the first time.
And if a story about a father wanting to be the hero his son thinks he is sounds sappy and melodramatic to you, let us assure you we went in with the same fears. But truth be told, we came out of the other side with a smile on our faces and a feeling of warmth in our hearts. An actor we thought was good delivered on his promise in spades, and hence we found ourselves empathising with Arjun's wife Sarah (Shraddha Srinath) and son Nani (Ronit Kamra). The character and the actor had both gone far beyond what we expected of them.
Like Arjun, Jersey is not an embodiment of perfection in any sense of the word. It is riddled with occasional slow pacing, shockingly abrupt switches in characterization, a melodious yet overbearing score, a few continuity errors and a less than convincing child actor. But it's a movie we enjoyed nonetheless because it's just so damn heart-warming. We have no clever way of explaining something so pure because it demands to be felt, not dissected.
Standing at the forefront of it all and baring his soul to an audience smothered with machismo on a daily basis is Nani. He delivers quite possibly the best performance of his career. Simply put, watching a broken character (played by an actor operating at the peak of his powers) hide both his tears and his exuberance from the world around him is gut-wrenching and goosebump-inducing, respectively. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The relationship he shares with his lady love, too, is expertly etched with the aid of some more good acting and superb staging. Shraddha Srinath serves her purpose well as his doting yet free-thinking wife. We urge you to notice her name badge that remains Sarah Fernandez even after their wedding, and the thick line of separation drawn between the two leads which is directly in contrast to the duo's handsy nature over the course of their courtship. These delicate touches are what elevate Jersey from your run-of-the-mill sport-family-drama.
The writer in Gowtham Tinnanuri keeps his audience invested in a well-worn story because of how well he understands the characters that populate his world. Satyaraj's coach Murthy, Sampath Raj's head coach Gowda, Viswanath Duddumpudi's Nandu and Sanusha's Ramya all put in good performances and feel tightly knit in a locality that is both cold and cosy.
Making the packed locality look small and empty stadiums look large are cinematographer Sanu Varghese and Jersey's immaculate production design team. While many a film-goer might point you to big-budget blockbusters to experience visual treats, we point you towards this personal story to get your fix of good camerawork (those cricket sequences are glorious) that is simultaneously loaded to the brim with subtle references to the '90s.
However, the subtlety in the visual presentation does not carry over to Anirudh's score. Jersey would have been better served with a more minimalistic approach to its background music, but that is but another forgivable miscalculation in a good film teetering on being great.
And that statement sums up Jersey quite well. Our parents aren't perfect, our teachers aren't perfect, and our heroes aren't perfect. At risk of repeating ourselves, Jersey like its lead character is not perfect, either. Then again, if we were to dwell on Sachin's 34 ducks, we would fail to appreciate his century of centuries. The mind sees and likes what it wants to see and like.