Champion movie cast: Vishwa, Narain, Manoj Bharathiraja
Champion movie director: Susienthiran
Champion movie rating: 2 stars
Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu 2, Kennedy Club and Champion. What connects these films? Susienthiran directed these 2019 movies. Besides, they belong to the sports genre. (Not ‘pure’ ones) No bonus points for guessing it, though. But, what is with Susienthiran’s obsession with sports-based films? His debut venture, Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, was a runaway hit—agreed. That doesn’t mean he should repeat the genre often, attempting to “recreate success”. Yet again, Susienthiran’s effort fails. If Bharathiraja starred in Kennedy Club as a senior football coach, his son Manoj gets a role in Champion. Thankfully, he doesn’t play the coach; Narain does.
Champion is similar to many other films set against a sports backdrop. It has ‘love’ (glad; not-so-much), a revenge track, mother sentiments and what not? A bit of “sports” obviously here and there. Champion starts as an underdog sports drama and turns into a gangster-revenge saga midway. Last week, we had Jada with an inconsistent tonal shift, and this week, we get Champion! The film follows the sports movie template of underdogs fighting against the odds. It doesn’t matter if it’s pure genre or a mix, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Take Irudhi Suttru for instance, it was interesting from the word ‘go’.
Jones Thiraviyam (Vishwa) is a footballer from Vyasarpadi. He aspires to play in the national league and so goes to a football academy to get himself trained. There, the guy who selects candidates ask, “ganja unda?”, “blade poduviya?” The disappointed Jones remains silent, but his friends interfere and say, “North Chennai pasanga-naa porukiya?” I get Susienthiran’s intentions. But tell us something new. Of course, yes, typically, a North Chennai boy, in films, is shown as someone who indulges in the unnecessary fight, drugs etc. and filmmakers like Vetrimaaran, Pa Ranjith, Pushkar-Gayathri have explored it enough in their films.
Okay, I think I was going off the track like Susienthiran. Anyway, back to the storyline. Vishwa avenges the man who killed his father (played by Manoj Bharathiraja). What happens when Vishwa tries to do so, forms the crux of Champion. After a restrained yet impressive performance in Karthi-starrer Kaithi, Narain is seen as coach Santha. He tries his best to pull off the character. Santha mentors Jones and also protects him. He puts in extra care to look after Jones because he’s his bestie’s son. Susienthiran tries to tell too many things at a time. The result? No aspect particularly stands out. The football matches aren’t exciting to watch. Even Narain’s character (Santha) doesn’t have a fresh dialogue to say. We get the usual “Football is not an individual game, but a team effort” line. As a viewer, you are disengaged from what is going on because of the slack narration. I think Susienthiran loves to repeat his mistakes. There are solid scenes, but did he convert them into a screenplay? I doubt.
Champion partly discusses the ‘sevens’, as Jada did. But it doesn’t run through the film. I guess staying true to the sports template could have helped in holding things together. Champion could have been a winner, but unfortunately, it falls short, weighed down by the lumbering narrative.
Underwhelmed, I walked out. All right, let’s chuck everything. I am still fuming because post-screening, the makers wanted to address the journalists. Nothing wrong in it, but, the organisers made sure the back door was locked; so that we don’t walk out in the middle. You knew you made a terrible film, right? You badly want everyone in attendance till the end. But, this ain’t the way. Further, why would you talk at length as if you made a Dangal and do the customary “thanksgiving” and go on to a full-on praise mode?