Jersey has everything you could want in an emotional sports drama. Yet, it leaves you with nothing much to hold on to in the end. Directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri, the film starring Shahid Kapoor and Mrunal Thakur starts on a promising note. A flamboyant cricketer with a temper and unmatched talent, a strong woman who supports and loves him, and a father-like mentor. What could go wrong? Turns out, a lot.
Set in Chandigarh, Jersey is the story of a cricketer who could have had it all but throws everything away when the selectors ignore him. The film starts in 1985 when Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapoor) takes centre stage at the Duleep Trophy finals and fast forwards quickly to ten years later when he’s an unemployed, unkempt father and husband.
Along with Shahid Kapoor, Jersey also stars Mrunal Thakur as Vidhya, Arjun’s wife, and Pankaj Kapur as his coach and mentor. While Vidhya struggles to make ends meet, she gets increasingly frustrated with Arjun’s unwillingness to pick up a new job or get his old job back. His mentor, on the other hand, never loses faith in Arjun’s talent and urges him to come back to the sport as a coach. Another person who stands firmly with Arjun the cricketer is his son, Ketan, played by Ronit Kamra.
After facing disappointment with the selection committee, Arjun decides to take up a government job but is suspended on false charges of corruption. While he waits for his suspension to be revoked, the cricket board organises a friendly match between the Punjab state team and the New Zealand team. As a way to earn quick money, Arjun agrees to be a batsman in the match but instead of money, he gets back the will to play cricket again and prove his mettle.
Shahid Kapoor, as Arjun Talwar, is an extension of Kabir Singh. Kapoor is the same in both films but, in Kabir Singh, his character grabbed attention despite all of the movie’s flaws. In Jersey, Arjun Talwar would have been easily missed if he hadn’t been the protagonist. Apart from this obvious need for variety in characters, Shahid Kapoor also needs to stop doing roles of Punjabi characters. Either that, or he needs to finally learn the language. Because after so many films in which he’s tried to pass off as an authentic Punjabi speaker, hearing him talk in the language should not be such a painful experience.
Mrunal Thakur is annoying to watch, both as a young college student infatuated with a cricketer and as an adult who is frustrated with everything in life. In Jersey, Mrunal Thakur’s over-the-top acting shows up without warning and it can feel quite jarring. Also, that constant “Babu” is nauseating, to say the least. Vidhya’s character is not fleshed out at all. We know nothing of her life beyond her husband, child, and job. Vidhya is the backbone of her family, yet we are told nothing about her dreams or characteristics. All we know of her is that she is the wife of an unemployed cricketer.
Pankaj Kapur will always have nostalgic value, so even a half-hearted performance from him doesn’t make much of a negative impact. But to cast Pankaj Kapur and not use his talent feels like a bigger tragedy than the one that unfolds at the end of Jersey. This is an actor who plays emotionally complex characters with ease. And this film doesn’t use even one per cent of his talent. Jersey does not lay any emphasis on character development and it shows.
In terms of sports movies, Jersey is highly simplistic and far too predictable. The big moments in the film don’t do much. The only goosebumps you’ll get will probably be because of the excessively cold air conditioning in the cinema hall. The first half ends with the promise of a better second half but that doesn’t happen. The predictability continues and the performances don’t improve.
The film tries to make you cry at several points, but as a person who cries in films at the drop of a hat, there was not one tear rolling down my cheek.
If you still want to watch Jersey, head to your nearest cinema hall. Yes, the comfort of OTT is slowly being taken away from us.
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