Director: Gowtam Tinnanuri
Cast: Nani, Shraddha Srinath, Sathya Raj, Sampath Raj, Ronith, Praveen
One of the most successful actors in Telugu cinema, Nani tries something different each time. With Jersey, he appears to know he has gone a step ahead. Nani has spoken highly about the film and has said the Gowtam Tinnanuri-directed film is his career’s best.
Arjun (Nani), an exceptional batsman playing for the Hyderabad Ranji team, marries his girlfriend Sara (Shraddha Srinath) and starts a family. At the age of 26 he quits cricket and takes up a job, which he subsequently loses. From then on, he depends on his wife for everything. His seven-year-old son asks him for an Indian team jersey as his birthday gift. Arjun cannot afford one but he gets an opportunity when his coach (Sathya Raj) tells him to play a charity match for a fee. As it turns out, there is more at stake than just the match fee.
Jersey could well be the first film to completely have cricket as a backdrop. Director Gowtam Tinnanrui has done well to load the sports drama with emotion, and taking a close look at relationships — between father and son, wife and husband and coach and player.
The depiction of the father-son bonding is touching, and the manner in which a talented sportsperson struggles in his life realistic. The cricket field, matches and the team selection are lively and believable.
The 36-year-old father wants to become a hero for his son and to prove to his wife that age is not a bar to reach his goal. Gowtam moves back and forth in the narration, starting with the present, travelling back to 1986 and moving forward to 1996.
Keeping the best for last, Gowtam ends the film with a twist which enhances the tale. If it were not to be for that, the entire effort may have gone waste. Full credit to Gowtam for coming up with Jersey, not the regular film and not something that happens in Tollywood usually. Except perhaps there could have been a little less cricket in the second half.
Nani is stunning once again and clearly carries the film on his shoulders. He has proved his value in many films and, as he has said in the promos, Jersey is his best so far. He is so natural that you can be forgiven for thinking that it is Arjun on the screen and not Nani. Clearly, he is not known as the ‘Natural Star’ for nothing. In a good film, the railway station scene is the stand out. Shraddha Srinath is equally good as the wife and it’s a memorable debut for her in Telugu. She puts in a very mature performance. Sathya Raj gets a meaty role and is the other pillar for the film. After Nani, Sathya Raj is the highlight.
Child actor Ronith is excellent, and there are a few scenes in which he really does touch the heart. Sampath Raj plays a coach. Praveen as Nani friend supports well. Rao Ramesh and Brahmaji appear in cameo roles.
Cinematography by Sanu John Varughese merges with the story-telling. The artwork by Avinash deserves mention. Aniridh Ravichander’s background music is elevates the mood.
Jersey is not a regular film, and not because there are no songs, no action scenes or the typical comedy. It is the story of a talented cricketer and his emotional journey of letting himself go to waste and fighting back. A refreshing first of its kind in sports drama in Telugu.