After Kabir Singh, Shahid Kapoor returns to the big screen with Jersey, almost after three years since his last film released. And you don’t feel he has changed one bit, at least as far as his look is concerned. However, his Arjun Talwar in Jersey is far calmer and restrained that the rowdy, angry Kabir Singh. Playing a talented but failed cricketer, a doting father, and a husband trying hard to save his marriage from falling apart, he carries the film on his able shoulders. While he hits it out of the park each time he’s on the field, the film shines in patches and with a disrupted narrative, often losing pace. (Also read: Jersey celeb review: Shahid Kapoor gets praises from ‘lil bro’ Ishaan Khatter, Varun Dhawan and more)
A Hindi remake of the 2019 Telugu film by the same name, Jersey has been written and directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri, who also helmed the original. And no prize for guessing, the remake is a scene by scene copy of the original, much like most other south Indian films that get remade in Bollywood.
Jersey traces the tale of an exceptionally talented Ranji player Arjun Talwar (Shahid Kapoor), who quits cricket at the age of 26 and after 10 years, decides to revive his career and return to the game. In the process, Arjun wants to fulfill his son Kitu’s (Ronit Kamra) desire for a jersey and dream of seeing his father play cricket. Along this journey, Arjun goes through emotional turmoil and confrontations with his wife Vidya Talwar (Mrunal Thakur) who bears all the financial burden of the family.
But despite all the helplessness, nothing seems to stop Arjun from following his dream of playing for the Indian national cricket team. He finds support in his coach Madhav Sharma (Pankaj Kapur), who also acts as a father figure to him.
High on emotion, Jersey lacks on the intrigue value that would keep you hooked. And the nearly three-hour runtime of the film makes it only worse.
To begin with, Arjun and Vidya’s romance and their struggle to convince her South Indian father to marry her daughter into a Punjabi household gets a bit too stretched. Even as the director tries to infuse a slight humor in these scenes using typical tropes of differences between North and South India cultures, the jokes fall flat.
In the entire first half, we only get to hear two things over and over again – son wanting a jersey and the father struggling to arrange ₹500 to buy that. It’s only the second half that the story starts moving forward. Also, the film’s only big reveal that comes during the climax didn’t really overwhelm me. I wish the makers had thought of a different twist to make the story stand out from the original.
More than sports, Jersey highlights the dynamics of relationships – between a father and a son, a husband and a wife, a player and a coach, a failed cricketer and his friends. And that, I felt, lent a beautiful depth to the film. The endearing performances while displaying these bonds actually take the cake.
Shahid doesn’t go overboard with his performance and stays understated. His expressions of anger, frustration, helplessness, happiness and victory strike the right chord. I felt the Punjabi touch spread rather unevenly and tediously in his dialogues, could have been avoided. Nevertheless, this would definitely be among his finest performances.
Mrunal as the working wife and mother does her job well and doesn’t look forced in the script. The film gives ample scope to her to perform and she lets her expressions and eyes do most of the talking. Mrunal’s chemistry with Shahid isn’t superlative but works to an extent that they don’t look odd.
Ronit Kamra as Shahid and Mrunal’s onscreen son is the same kid from the original, and is as good in the Hindi remake, too. His scenes with Shahid are just delightful and you can connect with the bond this father-son duo share on screen. And then there’s Pankaj Kapur, a veteran in the truest sense and a character that you instantly fall in love with. Even in the handful scenes he has, he picks up little nuances and brings the much-needed comic relief, too.
The scenes on the cricket field have been beautifully shot and cinematographer Anil Mehta captures the game in a magnificent way.
To sum up, Jersey stays true to the sports drama genre it belongs to and it strikes a fine balance between the game and the emotional side of a sportsperson. Only if the makers had worked a little harder on the editing table and brought it to a two-hour something, it would have been an ideal and crisp watch.