Jersey movie cast: Shahid Kapoor, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Kapoor, Rituraj Singh, Ronit Kamra, Geetika Mehandru
Jersey movie director: Gowtam Tinnanuri
Jersey movie rating: 2.5 stars
A wildly talented cricketer, dealing with a flatlined career and an uncertain future. His wife, at the end of her tether, trying her best to keep everything going. Their young son, who sees the father as an idol, the recipient of unshakeable faith. And the secret which spills out, lighting up a loser who is, in reality, a winner, not just for his family, but for his friends and fellow-players.
The world of Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapoor) revolves around Vidya (Mrunal Thakur), and Kittu (Ronit Kamra). It’s your average middle-class family, based in Chandigarh, dealing with dripping walls and unpaid electricity bills, and the weight of the man of the house who is struggling to find a path for himself.
Jersey, an official remake of the 2019 Telugu hit of the same name and by the same director, has all the elements of an inspirational sports drama. A leading man nursing a crucial secret which curbs his sporting ambitions. Authentic cricketing action in the inter-state Ranji matches, minor skirmishes between players, politics amongst the selectors of the Indian team. And the insistence on keeping it low-key, which instantly makes everything relatable. But the film is too stretched at 172 minutes, and the hero is too hangdog: ‘Jersey’ needed to be a little more rousing to keep us engaged all the way.
In the original, the leading man is forty, and the key relationship between the father and son (Kamra was also in the Telugu film) is more contentious. In the Hindi remake, Arjun Talwar is younger, at 35. And the hero-worship between him and his son doesn’t shift, despite everything. It would have been interesting to have more texture in the interactions between Talwar Sr and Jr, like there is in the arc between Arjun and Vidya, which starts from youthful giddiness to the sober realisation that life cannot be lived on love and fresh air alone.
The film comes alive in the sequences between Shahid and his real-life father who plays his never-say-die coach and mentor. Pankaj Kapoor delivers a lovely, relaxed performance, which shows up the constriction of the son, who appears much more in command when he is smashing fours and sixes on the field, and too morose off it. The reason for his sliding off the scale is left as a big reveal in the remake, but it comes too late: the original version had given us an early hint, and that had helped us understand the depth of the hero’s pain. Here, the plot provides Shahid too few moments to let his guard down and show us his vulnerable side: more of those would have left a decided impact.
An emotional end, even if it feels very last-minute, provides the essential drama that a movie like this needs. That, and the message that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. Overall, though, Jersey comes off sincere but lacklustre.