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Jhund Gets It Right, Eventually





Starring Amitabh Bachchan

Written & Directed  by Nagraj Manjule

Rating: ****

While eventually  it  finds its way out into the light,there  is plenty  that  Jhund gets  wrong. The slum-soccer theme  goes  from dream to scheme with scarcely a  scream . It all happens  too abruptly: one minute we see Vijay Borade(real name Barse)scrutinizing the slumboys as  reformative cases. The  next thing we know  the boys are  rallying around their soccer messiah , their  distrust and  disdain magically alchemized  into a deep commitment.Soon after they are playing that decisive  match: you know, the one where the underdogs will beat the  football snobs on the field  while the two coaches from the  two  sides  speak of their teams with the protective  ferocity  of lions  guarding cubs.

But the pre-intermission match  just goes on and on, and on. And yet barring one,  we barely get an opportunity to  get to know the slumkids closely.Sudhakar  Reddy Yakkanti’s camera moves restlessly through the  congested  lanes  . Even on the field it  scarcely stays  still, moving from one  young  underdog to another capturing  more the spirit than the  flesh, so to speak.

Curiously, a Sardarji shows up in  the slum team at  the  match although he was never shown to be part of the pre-match football sessions.In fact the pre-intermission match should be cut by half.It  doesn’t hold your attention.And those  shots of an old man cheering them  from across the wall are not only unnecessary, they are annoying.

The wall, that Mr Bachchan so  passionately speaks  about in his climactic monologue(no recent film of his is complete without one  of those) is  crucial to Jhund. In one of  my favourite shots of  the film, as  the  slum footballers take off to play in Georgia,  we see a sign on the wall saying no one is allowed to  go beyond it .

  Sadly   the film builds  its own wall  dividing the audience from the  slumkids  that the film so obviously  cares  about. There are too many of them to create  any  empathy let alone a back story  for each.The only underdog who  makes an impression, a deep one  at that,  is Ankush Gedam.As a smalltime dada who  finds  a goal (pun intended) he  should have remained central to the  drama, as he is in many ways.

  Ankush’s rapport with the reformative  professor will remind  you of  Anil Kapoor and  Dilip Kumar  in Yash Chopra’s Mashaal, except that Ankush’s performance is far more lived-in  than  Kapoor’s. Ankush’s  penultimate sequence at  the  airport as he nearly misses his flight to freedom will have you  holding your breath and  holding back your tears.

Elsewhere a subplot about a rural female football player Monika(Rinku Rajguru ,the  heroine of Manjule’s  classic  Sairath) trying to get  a  passport to play in Georgia,is  moving in its own right. Rinku’s tanned skin-colouring is  a puzzle, though.  Unless dark is the  chosen colour of  under-privilege.

Jhund,true to its title, crowds the  plot with too  many characters including a divorced Muslim girl with three child  who  wants to  play football. Admittedly there  should have been a stricter quantity-control. But  the quality of  integrity, the sincerity of this film’s purpose never wavers. In  spite of its  zigzagging  progression and its tendency  to be fidgety rather than  focused Jhund  keeps you  invested in the lives of these underdogs till the end. In short, it’s  a privilege  to share the lives  of these underprivileged.


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