Readers Write In #74: Thoughts on the Nani-Shraddha Srinath starrer, JERSEY

Posted on May 2, 2019

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Spoilers ahead

How often do you want to write about a movie that’s moved you? For someone who is in the verge of making his own film, being so moved by a film is a rarity. I went to watch Jersey expecting a decent movie with a few good moments. I came out in tears and little did I know that I will cry multiple times in the days to come.

I have a theory, the very first shot of any given film will determine if the director/writer has made a film from his heart, I tell this because, as a filmmaker myself, if I don’t even have my first shot filmed with conviction, what can you really expect from the rest of the film. My method might be too harsh to judge a film, but that’s how I critique, if not harsher, my own work, however small or big it is. I knew that Jersey would pan out well, as the first few shots had a lot of heart. I slipped into the movie’s narration and forgot that I was watching a film. The scenes of Arjun and Sarah going about their regular routine felt real, it felt like something that happened to me. I wanted to be the kid that was loved so much. Like in our lives, it wasn’t money or success that defined my childhood, it was the smaller things, it was the waiting that gave me most of my happy memories.

When you learn that Arjun inspite of his talent and potential to become a great cricketer and play for team India, is now jobless and is dragging through life, it moved me. I remembered all the times my family had to go through life with nothing to do but just waiting for something good to happen. Sarah does everything to make sure they can  just about live, I remembered all the times my mother had to pull through situations that didn’t feel fair. She had no choice but to do it. I understood Sarah, I understood Arjun, I understood Nani.

Arjun was the closest to me, I could see two phases of my life that resembled more of what was happening to him. One of myself having to push through all the inner conflicts to break out of my comfort zone and make it in life, not for anybody else, but for myself. The second was that of my fathers; Its important that you understand that I don’t really have a relationship with my father at this point. To be honest, I don’t remember him that much, but the idea of him vaguely exists. Everything that Arjun goes through to buy Nani a Jersey, reminded me of times too great financial difficulties at home, but as a child money made no sense, all I cared was about things that I wanted. Money Made no sense and wasn’t part of the equation what so ever. I was reminded of a time that was one of the most disturbing memories that I have; a regret – I was eagerly awaiting to play a cricket match and was getting delayed to go to school, because my father was making kheer for us, it was my birthday. I had a couple of spoons keeping an evidently long face. My father asked me to finish it and go. I threw a fit, telling him that he has wasted my life. My father cried, like a child he cried out loud with all his heart, I didn’t really care. I wanted to play cricket. This haunts me. I could see my father in Arjun, I couldn’t take the guilt, I wept silently.

When Arjun throws a fit of arrogance as he pushes a batsman exactly like when he did as a young cricketer, as he walks to play the charity match, I saw myself, the arrogant prick I grew up to be (I still am sometimes). Failure teaches you to stay humble and like Arjun I have learned it with age.

When a feeling of real success touches you, you’d expect to have a cinematic moment, but in reality it is a silent cry, a solo feeling, a very private moment. Arjun screams his heart out in the Train Station, I broke down when it happened. I wanted a similar scene for my father, I badly hope he won.

In my own small existence, my real feeling of success came when I got admitted into film school. I had no qualifications what so ever, I had no known natural talent that made a filmmaker, Out of 200 odd applicants only 30 were selected, my name was called out first. I walked for 3 kilometres crying in happiness and had a similar moment in a bus station, I however didn’t scream, I wept my heart out, I knew things will only become better hereafter, little did I know that life had just started and it is going to be a long time before I can scream my heart out in a train station, which I know will eventually happen. I love making films like Arjun loves Cricket. Even if I have just a day to live, I would rather be on location shooting than in a hospital trying to stay alive, but not live.

Which brings me to Arjun’s Death, I didn’t agree with how this bit panned out in the movie, it should have been better. Cinema works better when you show not tell. That being said, the final dialogue that Nani, Arjun’s kid, now all grown up tells the world ,“Please don’t keep referring to my father as someone who died trying; he knew he was going to die if he did this, nevertheless he did try and he did succeed”. This very line sounded great when I saw it at the movies, the impact it would come to have, took 3 more days, when I was giving someone a pep talk and stumbled upon this scene and choose to tell him the scene and this exact dialogue, I couldn’t finish the dialogue, I choked; I completely understood and realised the extent Arjun choose to go to make his life. His life was short lived, but like the old school saying, “Life is not meant to be long, but Large”Arjun lived through me, through us.

In an age of social media where everybody is obsessed with success and success alone, I was happy that Arjun could just play his game. My mother once told me “Its okay if you success comes delayed, whose really counting? Everybody has a journey and your time will come, it might be delayed, but its worth the wait.”I might not have the heart to resolve everything with my parents as yet, I consciously have chosen to live this way for the past 20 years. But someday I might, I just might choose to give it my all.

Jersey has impacted my life in a manner that has never happened. I am giving life everything now, I am giving Cinema my everything. I am choosing to play the game, my game, for myself, even if the whole world sees me otherwise, like Nani choose to see Arjun as a hero, I will only see myself as my own hero.

(by Avinash Prakash, whose company, Zoetrope, produces and manages all FC South video content)