Thamizh Talkies: Jersey - A paean to perseverance
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
The film on my mind, this week, is Jersey. With an almost Hollywood-ian title, this is no English film, but a Telugu one, written and directed by Gautham Tinnanuri, who brings to light the emotionally gripping story of a man who belongs to that 99 per cent of the world which TRIES. It's a world inhabited by people like you and me -- we are those who TRY every single day to get into that one per cent, don't we? We may not end up there, but we try nevertheless, no matter what life hands out to us. As a film, Jersey is to sports what Salangai Oli (Sagara Sangamam in Telugu the original) is to classical dance. Both films speak of that lone man who should have been a success story, who should have won accolades and applause, but his life, unfortunately, does not hand him the ace. He’s left to deal with the harsh realities in his career and love life. The hero thus ends up as someone who’s not a regular winner to the world, but to us, the audience, he ends up rising to a level several notches higher.
Jersey is also a tale of a father and son (just how all our lives are a tale of the relationships which matter to us). It’s also a tale of lovers in whose life marriage brings a sour twist, and it’s also a tale of a prodigious talent who gives us goose flesh when you see the hero performing his best on screen. If Kamal Haasan brought to life the dancing genius of Balu (do rewatch his performance in the scene where Jayaprada gets him a place in the National Dance Performance), Nani in Jersey plays cricket like he was born for the game! The wonder of such films which harp on personal triumph over the tragedies of fate, is that, it leaves us with a sense of hope for our own present and future. It tells us we can be late bloomers, we can find our groove, and that it’s never too late to dream (a line from Jersey). It's a hinge that keeps the door of human survival wide open.
The predictability of the proceedings in a rise-to-fame story may seem close to life because for a long time in our lives, status quo remains, but that doesn’t mean we give up honing our skills -- the core which keeps our inner flame burning. Living in a metro city like Chennai means being privy to films and cultures from other parts of India which throw light on the many facets of creators from hundreds of miles away.
Telugu cinema is one of the richest film industries in the world and has always balanced hero-worship sagas with family dramas. The template of five songs and four fights with mother and sister sentiment thrown in, still works when done well. The non-template films of K Vishwanath of the 80s and the LV Prasad narratives of the 60s also worked well for them. In recent times -- say, the last four to five years -- Telugu cinema is seeing a talent boom in terms of screenwriting, direction, and acting. I dislike the word 'experiment' in the context of storytelling, as I believe it's a word suited for science labs. Cinema is all art. Hence to reduce a film’s box office success to one success formula is a heartless approach for analysing an expression of art which arises solely from the emotional quotient (EQ) of our thought process. Practice makes art perfect.
A film which takes you along its highs and lows in well-paced intervals inside a likeable story belongs to a success template. Irrespective of genre, it’s always the story which charms the mind into rapt attention. If you are able to feel what the characters you see on screen are feeling, therein lies true success for the creators of such cinema. Jersey to me is one such film which made me feel as much as its protagonist. What is a film that is close to your heart?