Jhund – To summarise, this is a dramatic sports film that may not have exhilarating moments around every corner for you, but the message it seeks to make will hit you square in the face. A sports movie that teaches you a lot about life.
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Former sports coach Vijay Barse devotes his time and money to teaching disadvantaged children how to play football in order to keep them away from the drugs and crime that plague Nagpur’s underbelly.
In most places, there is a pink-and-white wall with an iron fence. It has a gate that is kept and patrolled to prevent individuals from the nearby slum from crossing over to the opposite side, where educated and rich residents live. That image, in a figurative sense, represents the territory into which this film is entering. It’s emphasized even further in the film’s concluding scene, in which an airplane is shown flying just above the hutments of Mumbai’s slum region.
Even though the movie follows the conventional rhythms of a good sports drama, Nagraj Popatrao Manjule’s Jhund is not an unambiguous sports biography.
The video is a reflection on what we can do as a society to assist the have-nots in identifying their assets and crossing the threshold to the other, brighter side. In a pivotal scene of the film, set in Nagpur’s bylanes and photographed beautifully, Amitabh’s Vijay Borade (modeled on Vijay Barse, a retired sports professor who has coached numerous street kids in football and founded an NGO Slum Soccer) talks properly about it (Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti). The camera slickly romances the city’s scenery, particularly the jhopadpatti (slum) where the film is situated for the most part.
Although the events in this piece begin slowly, they quickly gather up speed.
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Vijay Borade is on the verge of retiring from his position as a college sports professor, but he has no plans to do so just yet. He’s driven enough to offer free adult education seminars to the community at his home. His son’s resistance is obvious yet muted since he wishes to pursue an education overseas. When Vijay notices youngsters in a nearby slum playing football with a plastic Barrell, he begins to train them in the game, which eventually distracts them from their life of crime and drug addiction. But how far is he willing to go? Do they all give up their lives in the gloomy underbelly of crime and addiction?
Is it possible for some or all of them to jump to the opposite side? All of this and more is addressed throughout the film’s over three-hour duration.
Nagraj Popatrao Manjule succeeds in holding one’s interest for most of the film; but, the pace slackens in the second half, and the picture may benefit from a tighter cut. Also, the pre-interval run is big on energy, while the post-interval run is high on drama — a better balance would have won the film a few more brownie points. In the first half, there are a few colorful people that add to the atmosphere and even provide some humor.
While the plot progresses along, addressing a variety of topics, there is also enough effort made to portray some exciting on-field sports. Every spotlighted character’s arcs and story loops have been well-crafted; nevertheless, if the editing had been more focused, it would have had a far higher effect.
The delicacy with which numerous subjects such as caste division, societal judgments, class difference, economic difference, and women’s education and rights are interlaced into the narrative is one of the film’s highlights. The disadvantage is that some of these concerns draw the audience’s attention away from the proceedings, disrupting the story’s general pace.
Words seldom suffice to express how well Amitabh Bachchan performs in the roles he selects. This time, he’s a retired sports professor who, despite obstacles and financial limitations, uses his time and money to safeguard and nurture children from Nagpur’s slums. He has excellent and total control over every moment in which he appears, never overshadowing his squad of players and always giving them greater strength.
What particularly stands out is the assurance with which a group of over a dozen children and young adults, including Ankush (also Don/Ankush in the film), perform. They do a good job of keeping your attention. Despite their little screen time, Rinku Rajguru and Aakash Thosar (who both appeared in Nagraj’s Sairat) provide solid support to the rest of the ensemble.
To summarise, this is a dramatic sports film that may not have exhilarating moments around every corner for you, but the message it seeks to make will hit you square in the face.
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