Bereft of any big stars, this low-budget movie based on the concept of street Cricket in a middle class area in the heart of Chennai city proved to be a surprising sleeper hit that launched many new stars.
It was a proper masala movie, and had all the right ingredients to make it popular with the youth : glamour songs, bucketfuls of sentiments on friendship and love, and the concept of underdogs winning the final moment – well almost!
Raghu (Jai) has been used a peg character to set the story and provide it a context. It traces the journey of galli cricket in Chennai. Forced by his parents, he moves from his old area of Royapuram (housing the local Cricket team ‘Royapuram Rockers’) straight into what he would regard as enemy territory of Visalakshi Thottam in suburban Mandaveli (housing the rival team ‘Sharks XI’). The initial transition has some fun moments – Jai opening the tap and crying out his heart out, his father making couple of lame jokes about the Sharks’ team.
Things take a more serious turn when he falls out with his old pals and on rebound joins the Sharks team. The team is a bunch of motley characters from all walks of life who are passionate about Cricket and desperate to win the Radio Mirchi Cricket tournament that they have lost three times in a row in the finals to Royapuram Rockers.
For an hour we are entertained with mindless fun and comedy as the group goes about the ordinary routine of playing and boozing around. We are entertained with couple of hit numbers, ‘Jalsa’ and ‘Saroja Saman Nikalo’. Premji Amaren comes up with his punch dialogue, ‘Enna Koduma Saar Idu’ in poignant scenes. Pazhani and Karthik are two central characters of the Sharks XI and they have a bad fight when Karthik falls in love with Pazhani’s sister and breaks the cardinal unwritten rule of young boys who otherwise are perpetually interested in impressing girls.
Raghu’s transition to Sharks XI is a typical allegory to ‘The Karate Kid’ – he starts as an outsider in the team, is punched around and feels hurt, he is down in the dumps but finds strength to fight back and seek redemption by gaining acceptance and accolades from his new mates.
Street Cricket – Galli Cricket – is indeed very popular in India and the story of ordinary characters find joy and purpose through indeed has the makings of a popular story.
We have comic moments sprinkled all throughout the movie – Sharks XI desperate to get hold of some money to have a booze party set up a bet match with a small team of school going kids whom they expect to beat hollow. Alas they are in for a nasty surprise as they are badly beaten and poor Elumalai loses his treasured bat. Shanmuga Sundaram, essaying the role of a local politician patronizing the Cricket tournament, makes an incredible leap of faith as he traces the evolution of India’s popular sport ‘gilli-danda’ to the modern version of Cricket and then stumps Pazhani further by asking him to choose between bowling or fielding on winning the toss.
The movie sets the right ambience for the story – a slice of life narrative of ordinary characters, the local Madras bashai lingo, the small fights and make ups among friends, the ‘punch-bag’ character played by Ilavarasu, a local barber shop owner who supports the team. So don’t miss the epic tussle between the Sharks and the Rockers. And do the Sharks finally win the finals – not quite they beat Rockers in the semi-finals and set up a match with their old tormentors. The new team called ‘Bad Boys’ turns out to be same bunch of kids who beat to pulp in the bet match earlier..