Mumbai, 13 Mar 2020 8:30 IST
Subodh Bhave's earnest performance is the only saving grace of this poorly scripted drama.
Two weeks ago we saw Kesari (2020), a sports drama about an underdog wrestler. In the film, we saw the wrestler request a former champion to teach him the techniques of the game and get, instead, tips for mental strength. In this week's release, Vijeta, a coach who is appointed specifically to teach players how to handle pressure puts them through physical training instead. Perhaps the two characters switched movies?
Vijeta is a sports drama with an ensemble cast led by Subodh Bhave. When Maharashtra's poor performance in the National Athletic Championship raises questions about the credibility of the team and the support staff, Maharashtra Sports Academy dean Varsha Kanvinde (Manasi Kulkarni) takes the bold decision of appointing Saumitra Deshmukh (Bhave) as 'mind coach' despite his controversial past.
So far so good. But for any sports film to succeed with the audience, the most essential thing is a thrill. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Vijeta lacks. And the root of the problem lies in the script.
To begin with, writer-director Amol Shetge's decision to cram various sporting disciplines into the story has the unwanted effect of not letting the audience focus on anyone. And if the audience doesn't care about a sport, why would it care who wins or loses? Which is why it is very important for a sports film to trigger curiosity about a particular sport in the audience. But we learn nothing about any sport here, nor does the film attempt to arouse our curiosity.
As if that were not bad enough, the film also fails to create a feeling of thrill and suspense despite the stakes being so high for every player. Shetge gives every one of his characters a back story so that the audience can connect emotionally with them and their quest for victory but then he does not spend enough time on the actual competition to make us feel that tension.
With the exception of Pooja Sawant, who plays a triathlete, and Pritam Kagne, who plays a marathoner, Shetge does not share the struggles of the athletes. We just see them coming to the ground and winning without much effort.
The script is also filled with logical holes. While some can be overlooked as cinematic liberties, there are others that are so glaring that you can't ignore them. Particularly in a sports film, the lack of logic becomes harder to digest. How, for instance, can Saumitra, a mind coach, suddenly become a physical instructor? And how is he an expert at every game?
The film establishes that Saumitra was diagnosed with chronic asthma as a child and that was why he had to give up his dream of becoming a sportsman. So, if he never had the chance to learn and play any sport, how did he end up becoming a coach? Don't you need to be at least a national-level athlete to qualify for the position of a state team coach? The film just leaves your mind buzzing with questions to which there are no answers.
Worse, it appears that the director and his cast have done no homework about the sports featured in the film. Though we don't know for sure if the makers appointed professionals to train the artistes, from what we see on the big screen, we seriously doubt it. The boxing and taekwondo match are so poorly choreographed that even one who does not know the complexities of either game can find faults.
The film has an ensemble cast of Bhave, Sawant, Kagne, Devendra Chaugule, Gauri Shipurkar, Madhav Deochake and Sushant Shelar, but it fails to capitalize on this talent pool because of the poor script. Of the players, Pooja Sawant and Pritam Kagne get the most screen time and they do try their best with whatever little they get.
Subodh Bhave and Sushant Shelar, who plays the head coach, are the only saving grace. Bhave carries the film with his earnest performance. He gets into the character of Saumitra. From an egoistic, short-tempered, snobbish coach to a caring person, he shows all shades of his character. But why the actor consistently chooses such poor scripts is a mystery.
Watch it only if you are a huge Subodh Bhave fan.
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