Jersey movie cast: Nani, Shraddha Srinath, Sathyaraj
Jersey movie director: Gowtam Tinnanuri
Jersey movie rating: 4 stars
As a 90s kid, I could relate to the setting of Jersey. I fondly remembered an era where people enjoyed the bliss of fewer options in the market before they were spoiled by the consumerist culture. It was a time where people bought the things that they need as opposed to what they want. It was the time when people were not buying things just because it was ‘neighbour’s envy and owner’s pride’.
Jersey is set in an era, where Sachin Tendulkar’s poster on the inside door of a cupboard and an action figure made out of flimsy plastic was enough to pamper a child on his birthday. Nani (Ronit Kamra), however, begins to show signs of being influenced by the consumerist culture that was fast catching up in the country at the time. He asks his dad Arjun (Nani) to buy him a replica of the Indian jersey for his seventh birthday. Nani wants the jersey so badly because one of his teammates in the cricket coaching class owns it and flaunts it every time he goes to bat. The kid even thinks that his teammate was made the captain of the team because of the jersey.
Arjun, an undiscovered cricketing talent, knows the truth. He advises his son that his coach gave the team’s captaincy to the other kid because of his leadership ability and not because of his costume. But, he also promises that he will buy him the jersey he wants because it is his birthday. Thus begins Arjun’s second innings in his life as he strives to live up to the expectations of his son, and be the hero that his son wants him to be.
Getting the jersey his son desires is not as easy as you may think. It costs Rs 500. And in the 90s, for a working-class family, it was a luxury to spend so much just for a piece of coloured fabric. Perhaps, Arjun could have indulged his son, only if he had a paying job. He got suspended from his job with the railways under the false allegation of bribery. His wife Sarah (Shraddha Srinath) is now managing the family by working as a receptionist at a star hotel. And, she understandably, refuses to give money to Arjun when he asks her.
Arjun is on his own now and he is determined to go to great lengths to fulfill his son’s wish. Director Gowtam Tinnanuri, who has also written this film, beautifully establishes the relationship dynamics between all three of them: Arjun, Sarah and Nani. He fills up the screen with heartwarming moments when all three make sacrifices in their own little but significant ways to support each other.
Jersey is not just the story of Arjun and his family. It is also the story of Sathyaraj’s Murthy. He is an underachiever, who has settled for a lesser deal in life. He had been a doting coach of Arjun during his formative years and he continues to support him through the latter’s trying times. Murthy sees himself in Arjun. Arjun reminds him of the opportunity that he lost when he was young. Even as Murthy knows that Arjun has quit cricket for good, he pursues him to take up the assistant coach position at the cricket club. He tells Arjun that he has the potential to become the head coach somebody, a feat that he could never achieve.
While Murthy represents an image of a classic father, who wants his ‘son’ to have a secured life with an assured pay cheque every month, Arjun, as a father, represents a new generation of parenting. Arjun wants to be a role model for his son and inspire him to achieve anything that he wants in his life. Also, unlike Murthy, Arjun doesn’t want Nani to succeed where he failed. He wants his son to be his own man and the film’s ending only adds to Gowtam Tinnanuri’s progressive narration.
Not just drama, Jersey has enough cricketing moments to draw you to the edge of the seat. Gowtam exactly knows how much of cricket should be shown at a given point in the narration, so that the game doesn’t overshadow the human drama. The majority of the first half, we just get a few scenes of Arjun showing off his batting skills. Gowtam Tinnanuri saves the best-choreographed sporting moments for the second half. I can easily say that Jersey is one of the best sports dramas of the decade.
Gowtam makes the viewing experience uplifting by highlighting the little expressions of his characters, a trick which is equivalent to a thousand words.
In an interview, Nani said that Jersey will be the best film of his career. Oh, boy, he wasn’t exaggerating at all.