It's not wrong to say that the whole of the South Indian film industry has gone crazy about sports dramas, with so many films hitting the marquee left, right and center. With so much of the same thing, it becomes increasingly tough for writers to innovate within boundaries and give out a film that actually stays true to the game. But mind you, director Gowtam Tinnanuri does take all these challenges into account and still delivers a very engrossing film in Jersey. Packed with top-rated performances from Nani and Shraddha Srinath along with Anirudh's excellent score, this is a film that demands your time at the theatre.
Breaking away from the usual storyline of a sports drama, Jersey throws the limelight on a late bloomer who wishes to make his way into the Indian team. Taking a leaf out of Indian cricketer Raman Lamba's life story, Gowtam pens a very emotionally strong script that provides great depth for all of its characters. The headline of the film has space for just four main characters, played by Nani, Shraddha, their little son and the coach Sathyaraj. These four have the majority of the screen time, and have solid responsibilities to carry in the context of the film. Instead of narrating his storyline in a linear, straightforward way, the director decides to introduce it through three different timelines that are brought in through a back-and-forth narrative pattern. It's this little knack that helps the film hop along in the first half, despite the conventional writing and the occasional forced comic skits. Once it gets into the second half, the film gets into the greater groove with the cricketing portions moving onto the higher side. Without wearing out the main plot, Gowtam wonderfully balances the relationships in the film with the on-field action. Thanks to the authentic work with the game, the film is engaging in full until the very end, where it opts for a fairly peculiar turn of events.
This is one of Nani's toughest acts in his career yet, and the actor pulls it off superbly by ensuring that he fits the bill. His efforts to play the 36-year-old cricketer have turned fruitful, as he remembers not to overdo his part by exaggerating it at any point. Watch out for the absolutely superb scene at the railway station. Supporting him on equal terms is Shraddha Srinath, who is so good as the hardworking wife. The on-screen relationship between the duo is the heart of the film and it just keeps getting better as the film progresses. However, the role of the child here is typecast and could have come with slightly better dialogues if not anything else. Sathyaraj is expectedly good as Nani's coach, while Sampath is adequate in a small role.
Jersey's script is further elevated by Sanu John Varghese's cinematography and Anirudh Ravichander's music. The former brings in the moody look with simple, old-fashioned colours and placements, saving the bright aura for the cricketing portions alone. Anirudh's score is specifically awesome in the final hour of the film, with a special mention to the theme song which works wonders. This is another good outing for him, as the songs thankfully sit as montage sequences and do not tamper the flow of the film.
Apart from the 160-minute runtime which does feel a little lengthy at a couple of instances, Jersey is a film that will keep you pinned. Gowtam Tinnanuri shows great promise as a talent for the future, for his mature handling of delicate emotions is something that definitely deserves praise. Nani was totally right, when he called this a special film in his career. It indeed is one.