Chennai 600028 marks an extremely sound directorial debut by Venkat Prabhu and yet again proves that ultimately content is king in a film and not the so-called star. One has to commend producers SPB Charan (SP Balasubramaniam’s son) and JK Saravanana in backing first timer Prabhu for a film that is fresh, endearing and extremely engaging.
A lot of credit in the film must go to its well-written screenplay, looking at the lives of a motley group of people who form a gully cricket team, the Sharks. The story develops nicely along and care is taken to avoid cliches as far as possible within the story. The main characters are well fleshed out, are likeable and most importantly are treated as real and normal lower middle class people. The screenplay deftly keeps the story out of predictability and that is one of the film’s biggest strengths. In fact, it is an extremely brave and courageous effort that the film tries to keep off time tested formulas. For one, the Rockers and Sharks meet in the semi-final of the tournament rather than in the typical big revenge match in a final and though, the team wants to win the cup for their injured mate, it ends on a light and ironic note with them struggling in the final against the very school boy team that knocked the socks off them in a bet match played on the beach earlier. In fact, the film is full of such light moments and thankfully many of the issues and conflicts are not treated as larger-than-life issues like in most mainstream films. But that is not to say that the film is just all smiles. It nicely captures moments of friendship, joy, pain, love, heartbreak and betrayal as it delves into the lives of the Sharks players while creating the lower middle-class milieu most convincingly.
As in any good human story, the film has its share of small memorable moments and well executed sequences. The scene with Karthik and Raghu turning friends is surprising and works extremely well in the film as does the sequence when Karthik sees Selvi in the hospital and she tells him Pazhani had asked her to look after him. The sequences of Raghu’s hesitancy in going out in a locality where his adversaries stay bring a smile to the face while the moment when one of the players, an ambulance driver, breaks down telling the others what was going on in his mind as he drove a bleeding Karthik to the hospital, is as poignant a moment as any.
That said, there are moments where the film does appear a debutant director’s work. Sometimes you feel Prabhu is trying too much, technically and otherwise as the film gets into too much of unnecessary stylization – different tones, split screens and what have you, going against the nature of the simplicity of the film. At times, certain sequences are inconsistent and do get into the worst of mainstream formulas like with some of the songs (far too many of them), the very thing the rest of the film tries so hard to avoid. In particular, the two songs between Aravind and Shwetha are big no-nos and are picturised very, very ordinarily as well and their romantic track is by far the weakest section of the film. The other romance between Karthik and Selvi too is just so-so but at least integrated properly into the film’s main storyline. Being a story of the Sharks, the Rockers, though their biggest adversaries, are treated as a collective one dimensional group of not-so-nice guys and little more. Also, one wished the opening voice over introducing the Sharks didn’t lay out all the cards on the table as it kind of tells you what to expect in the film. There was no need for this dumbing down as the film’s narrative takes you through those very experiences in any case.
The performances are enthusiastic, a little rough in places as again, many of the performers are newcomers but yes, quite there. In fact, them being newcomers without baggage, make it more credible to believe in them as the characters they portray. Siva, Aravind Akash, Jai and Nithin Sathya all score heavily though Premgi was a little over the top, his catch line from Rajinikanth’s dialogue in Chandramukhi not quite working. The girls have precious little to do but Vijayalakshmi, nevertheless, manages to leave her mark.
Technically, the film is adequate. One did feel a little looseness in the depiction of some of the actual cricket with some rapid montages cut to cover up and pace-up the film. However, the film has you gripped enough so that when the climax match with the Rockers is being played for you to happily go along with it.
All in all, Chennai 600028 is well-worth a watch.
Tamil, Sports, Comedy, Drama, Color