Rating: 9/10 (Never Give Up)
Cast: Nani, Shraddha Srinath, Sathyaraj, Praveen, Sanjay Swaroop, Viswant, Sampath Raj, Ronit, Brahmaji,
Written and Directed by: Gowtham Tinnaruri
Music by: Anirudh Ravichander
Producer: Surya Devara Naga Vamsi
Banner: Sithara Entertainments
Natural Star Nani is back with his latest film after a wild 2018 to say the least. The actor faced two flops and was ridiculed at times by the audience for Big Boss 2. His latest release, Jersey tells the story of a cricketer trying to make a comeback at age 26. Directed by Gowtham Tinnaruri of Malli Raava fame, does the film live up to the expectations and bring Nani back into the mix? Let's find out in this week's review
For this review, I'm going to forgo the traditional format and give a review that is structured differently
In India we have umpteen times the story of an underdog or a washed up athlete trying to make a comeback after a long time and become successful. We have classic sports movies in Lagaan and Chak De India. But you can't really say the same about Telugu movies and so Jersey arrives and how. Not only is the film incredible, the way it's presented is fabulous.
The movie's story is set across 3 decades from 1986 to 1996 and present day 2019. In short the film is about Arjun (Nani), a former cricketer who quit playing 10 years ago for reasons best known to him. This fractures the relationship between him and his wife Sarah (Sraddha Srinath) and he tries to make his son Nani happy in whatever way he can.
The struggle that he endures to buy his son a cricket jersey to the extent of going around town asking for money shows how much Arjun loves his own. He just wishes he could have a better life for him. And the reason behind all of this is beautifully showcased. The internal struggles, the father-son relationship, the coaches, everything seems so natural and realistic. Director Gowtham Tinnaruri has crafted a screenplay similar to his last film Malli Raava and changes time zones. And the director has learned from the mistakes is his debut here and presented the time gap to perfection without any lags. The motorcyles, tv's and apartments are all in tune for the 1996 time period where the majority of the film takes place. In fact, the film rarely has any flaws and it plays out perfectly despite what the slow pace or lag some may feel.
The strength of Jersey is that it plays out differently from a traditional sports film. They have a formula as such that the hero is introduced, somebody convinces him to give himself another shot, he refuses but then realizes he wants it more and he makes a comeback and wins. Jersey takes a different approach and while keeping the sports theme in tact, it portrays the everyday tension between a struggling wife and jobless husband, a dad that will go to any extent to make his son happy, and a father figure who knows the man who would be equal to his son can do better. The extent that Arjun goes to make his son seem like a hero in his eyes is the main crux of the movie. Only in the end will you be able to understand why he did everything that he did. But despite that, the film has so many emotional moments that it moves you in every way possible.
For the first time in a star hero film, the songs are integrated into the narrative and are beautifully blended. The background score by Anirudh also deserves an applause for the riveting score he has composed. Sanu Varughese's cinematography ably supports the movie's mood and is brilliant during the cricket sequences and the tension is incredibly captured and gives you the feeling you are actually watching a real cricket match right in the center of the action. Yet without one person, the film wouldn't be as good as it is
And that's the leading man, Natural Star Nani. Nani always delivers good performances but this is some extraordinary stuff. From the boy who wanted to be a director and found acting by mistake, he has come a long way and delivers his career best performance. The various emotions that he shows from pain, to sadness, to happiness, to arrogance is incredible. Even in the simplest of scenes or the emotional railway track scene which stands out from the rest, Nani is simply otherworldly in this real. All the best Actor awards next year should be given to this man.
Sradhha Srinath in her Telugu debut aptly supports Nani and it's refreshing to see a heroine get an important role playing a realistic housewife that we can connect with and not a regular dumb commercial heroine. Sathyaraj gets another solid role while Sampath Raj is convincing as the coach in the 2nd half.
The writing and dialogue are outstanding and the climax is the icing on the cake. It's highly emotional and you will likely be left with tears leaving the theater. The twist that is presented relates back to the theme of the movie and it truly shines light on what type of person Arjun really was and why he left his career all those years ago. The message is akin to each and every person and leaves a haunting impact in the end.
Overall, Jersey is a classic sports drama resulting in a masterpiece that teaches you to never give it up from Nani and Gowtham Tinnaruri. You will laugh, you will smile, and you will cry. Hatsoff to the entire team for making such an beautiful film. They don't make movies like this anymore. When we think of classic sports movies in India, Jersey will be the first Telugu film that comes to mind. This film and the message will be remembered for a long, long time. A must watch.