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3

In 2019, the Nani-Shraddha Sainath starrer ‘Jersey’ released in theatres and received a lot of love from the audience. Apart from doing well at the box-office, the Telugu language film received two National Awards, one for Best Feature Film – Telugu and Best Editing. The film was written and directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri who has also helmed the Hindi remake of the film which features Shahid Kapoor and Mrunal Thakur in principal roles.

The year is 1986. Arjun Talwar’s (Shahid Kapoor) biggest passion in life is cricket. He is being mentored by Coach Bali (Pankaj Kapur) who believes that Arjun is the finest cricketer he has seen in his entire career. He is confident about Arjun getting selected for the Punjab Ranji team this year. However, because of some reason, Arjun’s name gets dropped from the list at the last minute. The authorities go to the extent of stating that his inclusion in the list was a ‘printing mistake’. Coach Bali tells Arjun not to give up on hope and try again the next year. Arjun, however, is heart-broken decides to give up on cricket. He accepts the offer for a government job that he has received and gets married to Vidhya (Mrunal Thakur), the woman he has been in love with for a while. Ten years later, Arjun is not in a happy space in life. However, during his worst phase, he decides to reignite his passion for cricket and work towards getting selected for the national cricket team.

When I saw Anirudh Ravichander, who had composed the songs and the background score for the original film, being credited for the background score for this film (the songs for the Hindi version have been composed by Sachet-Parampara), I kind of guessed what to expect from the film. Anirudh’s background score from the original film has been reused here. What this means is the film is almost a frame-to-frame remake of the original.

The original ‘Jersey’ was a well-made film but had its share of flaws. The pace of the film was a little slow and there were several scenes that didn’t contribute much towards taking the narrative further. In the Hindi version, a couple of scenes have been omitted. The sad part is that these were not the scenes the makers should have done away with. In the original film, there is a scene in which Arjun (Nani) and Ramya (Sanusha) are having a conversation in the stadium. Ramya is upset with her cricketer boyfriend, whom Arjun has had a tiff with, for some reason and Arjun asks her to patch up with him and continue being his support system. This is one of the poignant scenes from the original which has not been included in the remake. On the other hand, some of the problematic scenes like Arjun giving a peck to the journalist and leaving her stunned, have not been removed.

One has seen several sports-based films on underdogs reviving themselves. The film uses many of the tropes used in such films but also brings to the fore certain elements one had not come across in those films. The screenplay (Gowtam Tinnanuri) has several moments that tug at your heartstring and even inspire you. However, the film does appear to be a little stretched, especially in the second half. The climax makes an impact but could also question a few decisions taken by the protagonist.

The background score (Anirudh Ravichander), which was also used in the original, is one of the film’s strengths. The songs (Sachet-Parampara), too, are tuneful. Anil Mehta captures the exhilarating matches played on the stadium and the streets of Chandigarh equally well. The production design (Shashank Tere) contributes greatly towards lending a realistic look to the film. The sports sequences have been choreographed very well by Rob Miller.

Shahid Kapoor delivers a splendid performance and does not hit a single false note as an actor. He acts out the two different phases of his character’s life brilliantly. Mrunal Thakur gets several scenes to shine and delivers a heart-warming performance as Vidhya. Pankaj Kapur is excellent as Coach Bali. Ronit Kamra reprises his role from the original film quite nicely. Geetika Mahendru (Jasleen Shergill) gets decent screen time and performs well. Prit Kamani leaves a mark in a cameo.

‘Jersey’, to put it simply, is a faithful remake of the film it is based on. While it does exclude some of the memorable scenes from the original script, you shouldn’t have any issue with the film if you warmed up to the original.