Director: Gowtam Tinnanuri
Writers: Gowtam Tinnanuri, Siddharth-Garima
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Kapur, Ronit Kamra
Released in theatres.
Let me give you a short prequel to me watching this film. I had watched RRR, Pushpa: The Rise, and KGF: Chapter 2 before this film and have been privy to the talks of heroism fading away in Hindi cinema. In the wake of the pan-India successes of these three aforementioned movies, some might say that Hindi cinema should bring the larger-than-life hypermasculine Hero (Real Man) back onto the screens to achieve pan-India Box Office success. A couple of Hindi cinema superstars who have made a career out of playing such ‘Heroes’ have spoken about bringing back the heroism on-screen. But what is a real hero or real man, anyway? Every day there’s a new definition taunted at ‘Be a man’ or ‘Real men do this, not that’.
Arjun Talwar in Jersey is a nuanced characterization of withered masculinity. A broken man, husband, and father seeking validation from his wife, son, and himself. Shahid Kapoor plays Arjun Talwar. This is straight after his much controversial portrayal of a toxic Kabir Singh. Shahid is prolific as both Kabir and Arjun. Both the roles are demanding physically and mentally. By physically, I mean, a character’s body language conveys much more about him/her than the spoken dialogue. To get into the psyche of these extremely contrasting characters is altogether a different challenge.
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As far as performances are concerned, both acting and casting are done well. Ronit Kamra as Arjun’s son Kittu is impressive. Pankaj Kapur as the assistant coach Bali has a good day at the office. For once, there’s an assistant coach and not a Head Coach. He also has his share of dejection. The supporting cast of friends and teammates do what’s expected of them. Last but not the least, Mrunal Thakur. Is there ever a dull moment when she is on screen? After playing some extended cameos as the ‘Hero’s Heroine’, she finally gets something worthwhile in a mainstream Hindi movie. She is solid as Vidya, Arjun’s wife trying to make ends meet with her job as a receptionist. This is a tricky relationship to handle in films. The director never lets the man and woman in these two characters overpower the human in them.
There are a few times in this almost 3-hour-long film where the tempo dips a bit. But the overall experience is rewarding, courtesy of an overwhelming climax. I had not watched the original Telugu film of the same name so wasn’t prepared for that. This brings me back to how I started this review. The heroism. I am not interested in the ‘Hero’s Journey’ as taught in film schools for that is not the truth. I may find the larger-than-life heroes entertaining in parts but it is the heroes like Arjun Talwar who stay with you much after you’ve watched the film.