Thank God It Is Friday and it is the time of the week where we can put our feet up and relax. But along with it there are a few new releases which we at Popcorn Reviewss will cover, so do watch out for our unbiased verdict on them. First up, I finished watching the Abhay Deol starrer Jungle Cry on Lionsgate Play which has travelled the world across many film festivals.
India had won the inaugural T20 World Cup under the captaincy of the then inexperienced Leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And there was a sense of euphoria all around. But almost no one was aware(including me) that India were world champions in U14 Rugby in the same week of the T20 triumph. This in hindsight was sensational simply because Rugby as a sport is largrey unheard of in a country dominated by cricket.
It was only recently that we had seen a sports drama based on snooker titled Toolsidas Junior. So while cricket still is the go-to sport in films(83, Jersey and Kaun Pravin Tambe to mention a few), it is heartening that films are also made on lesser known sports in the country. So then does Jungle Cry manage to be an inspirational tale, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Jungle Cry follows the story of 14 tribal boys from Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences(KISS) who go on to lift the Rugby World Cup in 2007. The story is a true underdog story which is just so inspirational. The story might be similar to Chak De India and the trajectory of the film here also follows a similar trope but this in no way does dilute the incredible achievement of the kids. In a cricket dominated country, it is KISS who has played a huge role in giving important to other sports and for that the institute needs to be applauded too.
The screenplay standing at less than 2 hours is taut and to the point. What I really liked about the screenplay was that it is unassuming and doesn’t typically add over the top elements in it, rather it keeps it simple. So the opening shot of the boys playing ‘catch’ definitely sets the “ball” rolling. Soon you are introduced to the main “players” of the drama including the few protagonists. The conflicts introduced here are simple and they do get resolved in the very next scene as well. Here particularly, I did not mind that as it allowed the drama to be eventful and also move at a brisk pace.
The issue which I felt was in the transition of scenes. It is not a major flaw but at times the link between one scene to the other is blurred. It gave an impression that the makers were a little too keen to traverse from point A to B without worrying too much about the “link”. Also, a few scenes like the character of Abhay Deol taking up the role of the coach despite being skeptical didn’t really hold weight as you didn’t quite feel the challenges which did come along the way for him. It seemed smooth going, probably a little more detailing here would have been helpful.
Some of the subplots are good and intermingle well with the story. The “love” angle wasn’t explored which made it a focussed storytelling technique. The set pieces involving the game of rugby is pretty exhilarating and this is where the drama does “score” well. The long shots of the boys actually playing the game as opposed to jump cuts(there were a few though) give you a feeling of watching an actual match. The makers did well in explaining the rules of the game which was crucial in getting emotionally invested in the drama. The final act was truly inspiring and a matter of pride. Overall, a well written screenplay which is a subtle take on an emphatic triumph in rugby for a cricket loving nation.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are subtle and more rooted in reality. So you do not get long monologues of inspiration from anyone. This consistently keeps the drama real. The music is good and that one song is kept right at the end which means the pace of the screenplay remains uninterrupted. The BGM is exhilarating and really does its bit to leave you on a high. The cinematography is good capturing the sport particularly so well. The production design is good along with some good colour grading with gives this film a fresh look(this despite the film being ready in 2019). Director Sagar Ballary best known for Bheja Fry, does a swell job here. To transition an “unknown” sport onscreen was not an easy task, to even make it palatable for the audience. But he really deconstructs it in a way to be easily digestable to the masses. And the drama is consistently engrossing which sums up a good day in the office for the director.
The performances are pretty good. Atul Kumar as Dr. Samanta is absolutely brilliant. There are instances of characters talking in an interview like fashion in the film. And in one of the sequences, the character of Atul sir is giving an account of the rugby game. That was the best piece of commentary I have heard in ages. It is exciting and really hits home. Stewart Wright as Paul is affable and does a good job. Emily Shah as Roshni looks gorgeous and does a stunning job. She is very comfortable in front of the camera and she exudes that confidence too. And she is quite brilliant in the film, even in certain emotional scenes. Abhay Deol as Rudra is an absolute delight to watch. He is such a natural onscreen in what is a sincere and honest performance. All the other boys are earnest and do a good job. Probably a little more focus on their characterization would have helped even better to connect with them.
Jungle Cry is a sincere and honest attempt at recreating an inspirational and heartwarming underdog story. Available on Lionsgate Play.