Jersey, the Hindi remake of the Nani-starrer 2019 Telugu film by the same name, is, in equal measure, about cricket and a father-son relationship. The remake of the National Award-winning film by Gowtam Tinnanuri traces the journey of a domestic star cricketer who opts out of the sport at the peak of his career, only to make a comeback later. This also happens to be Shahid Kapoor’s second venture in a film originally made in Telugu, the first of which was the 2019 runaway controversial hit, Kabir Singh.
At the core of it, Jersey explores the idea of what makes a good father and how far he is willing to go to be one, while cricket acts as the conduit to move this narrative forward. The film is more about human emotions, with sports as the base, rather than the other way around. The plot is simple: A son wants the jersey of the Indian cricket team and the father realises that he cannot fulfil his birthday wish.
Shahid’s many shades
Shahid Kapoor plays a young, promising cricketer but a defeated man who is suspended on scam charges at the Food Corporation of India, where he works after quitting cricket. Shahid’s make-up, appearance and personality as an unemployed man whose wife is struggling to make ends meet, seem like an immediate callback to Kabir Singh.
Jersey is Shahid’s film through and through. He delivers a stellar performance as a ‘failed’ cricketer and husband whose world revolves around his son. However, it does fail to measure up to the Telugu original, where superstar Nani pulled a performance that tugs at your heartstrings.
The moments with his son Kittu, played by Ronit Kamra, are perfect, as are the moments when the real father-son duo of Shahid and Pankaj Kapur takes over the screen. Pankaj Kapur as the supportive coach and father figure is as flawless as ever and makes you laugh at his antics, typical of the actor.
As a young, rising Ranji player looking to land a spot on the national cricket team, Shahid looks and plays the part of a flamboyant cricketer and boyfriend to Mrunal Thakur’s character, Vidya, effortlessly. Still, you do not feel as invested in the love story as you feel in the father-son relationship. It could be deliberate, but it’s a definite weak link in Jersey.
Ageing athletes and sports
What Jersey shows in terms of performances is pulled down by editing. The emotional bits are stretched out almost needlessly at certain points, making the viewer impatient for the plot to move forward. The pace is languid, and betrays the story that looks at a very relevant question in sports — is age just a number, or the defining factor of a sportsperson’s career?
The fact that Jersey focuses on the Ranji tournament, once considered the acid test for those who wished to play cricket at a higher level and be a part of the Indian national team, is commendable. The matches, for those who have watched the Ranji Trophy, especially in Mumbai and also in Bengaluru back in the ’90s, would feel like a dose of nostalgia.
Shahid’s body language when he plays cricket makes you forget he is not actually a cricketer. He breathes life into moments on and off-field, and as a 36-year-old athlete who knows how good he is and still has to push against a system that sees his age as appropriate to be an assistant coach, not a player.
The climax is appropriately emotional and packs a big reveal. But Jersey‘s 2-hour 50-minute runtime steals a lot of its thunder.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)