Argentina Fans Kaattoorkadavu Review: An unremarkable film saved occasionally by its supporting cast
This is a film about football fans who watch other people play football on television; it's the equivalent of watching those trailer reaction videos on YouTube
For a film about football and football fans, the game is only played once in Argentina Fans Kaattoorkadavu (AFK). What you get instead, is a film about football fans who watch other people play football on television. It's the equivalent of watching those trailer reaction videos on YouTube. I'm not sure I would watch a film about a bunch of people passing commentary on trailers. The only difference between AFK and those videos is that the former is nicely shot.
Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Cast: Kalidas Jayaram, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Aneesh Gopalan
Set in a football-crazed village where even the scarecrows are dressed in jerseys (with the players' faces pasted on to their heads), AFK is a pale imitation of some yesteryear Sathyan Anthikkad films. There is not much in the way of conflict: it's a story better suited for a short film. It's not life's problems that bother the characters, but smaller stuff like coming up with the money to put up a fancy flex banner or putting up a bigger cardboard cut-out of their football icons. The race is to plant the seeds of envy in their rivals but this fails to create any excitement in the viewer. The situations, told through a haphazard narrative aided by a bland voiceover, don't make for interesting cinema.
Apparently, this is also a coming-of-age drama, but the only aim of Vipinan (Kalidas Jayaram) seems to be getting married to the girl whom he unexpectedly falls in love with one day. That girl is Mehr (Aishwarya Lekshmi), whose character description can be summarised in one line: a cute, feisty girl capable of holding her own and intimidating any cocksure man she encounters. Though Aishwarya is good as usual, Mehr is a one-dimensional character straight out of a syrupy Bollywood romance, and is a big step down from the actor's recent roles. The writing is such that Mehr is required to be a lot of things at once, in an attempt to make her seem like an all-rounder. In her high school days, she is cheering for a football team, and once she gets to college, she becomes active in campus politics.
Vipinan is a textbook example of a chocolate hero, but oddly enough, it's the best out of all the characters Kalidas has played so far. One can tell what Vipinan is thinking just by looking at his face. It may not be an extraordinary performance, but it is convincing nevertheless. However, given the zero chemistry between the two leads, it's hard to take either of them seriously. Oh, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she looks older than him (this was a topic of discussion on social media recently). When things don't go as planned, Vipinan comes up with a way to handle the depression: he creates a fantasy which enables him to have conversations with the slain Colombian footballer Andrés Escobar. Though not always fun, their interactions reminded me of the Mukesh-Jayaram film Ayushkaalam. In fact, the film begins with a tribute to Andrés.
Argentina Fans Kaattoorkadavu is one of those films where the supporting actors outshine the lead players. Standing out, in particular, are Aneesh Gopal (Saffer from last year's Theevandi), Arjun Ratan, and Anu K Aniyan. Their humorous antics and one-liners resuscitate the film whenever things get dull. In the end, it's these guys that make the film watchable. Being a football fan is not a prerequisite for watching this film, but when it feels like it was made to pander to football fans, you might want to reconsider what you are planning to watch this weekend.