March 5, 2021 5:38:19 pm
A1 Express cast: Sundeep Kishan, Lavanya Tripathi, Priyadarshi, Rahul Ramakrishna, Rao Ramesh, Murali Sharma
A1 Express director: Dennis Jeevan Kanukolanu
The cocktail of sports, corruption and ambition always makes for potent viewing. How sportspersons are exploited, forcing many to give up on their dreams is a story we have watched before. Serving this commentary in a new avatar is A1 Express, which is directed by Dennis Jeevan Kanukolanu.
Sundeep Kishan, who is delivering his 25th film with the sports drama, is a hockey player in the film. The story puts the focus on the historical Chittibabu hockey ground in Yanam, which had a role to play in the area’s independence struggle against the French colonizers. It is also the hub of the sport and sends multiple hockey players to the national team every year.
However, this history is not enough to deter a greedy company which is trying to set up a factory on the grounds. In cahoots with the businessmen is the corrupt state sports’ minister, Rao Ramesh. However, their evil designs are countered by the local hockey players, hockey coaches, and the residents of the area. To quell the protests, the minister misuses his power and plays the caste and religion card. How his plans come to a halt and how the film’s protagonist Sundeep Naidu (Sundeep Kishan) gets involved forms the crux of the movie.
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Despite an opportunity to present the sport in all its glory, the movie frequently loses its way as it tries to do too much. With the pace also slackening, it fails to deliver on the central idea.
The protagonist comes as the saviour of all involved but how he is introduced into the plot feels clunky and forced. Other movies, in fact better movies, are already out there with a similar theme. A1 Express had its work cut out but it failed to leverage its strengths. The climax is also predictable and the viewers can see the major emotional moments coming a mile away.
But, if there is someone who manages to save the film, it is Hip Hop Tamizha. His background score adds life to the scenes, which the film’s actors fail to do. The only saving grace is the way A1 Express showcases the game itself and those who are dedicated towards it.
In terms of performances, Sundeep seems so focussed on getting the sport right that he failed to match up to the emotional scale of his character. Given that his ability to deliver histrionics has always been his strength, it is quite a massive miss. Priyadarshi’s character has a limited role but he delivers it well. Lavanya Tripathi gets a half-baked character who is only there so that the hero can shine.
To me, A1 Express appears like a rehash of SS Rajamouli’s Sye, where rugby has been replaced with hockey.
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