Krishna, a talented basketball player, moves to a new college after a fatal accident on court. There, he clashes with the college team's egomaniacal cricket team captain, Vamsi, who will not have any other game sharing the limelight with his own sport.
If it was horror in his debut (
), Arivazhagan tackles the sports movie genre in his sophomore effort
, which wants to highlight the fact that we should stop being a one-sport (read cricket-crazy) nation and encourage every sport and sportsperson in the country. It is an idealistic film, yes, but what makes
a commendable effort is that it doesn't resort to cricket-bashing to drive home its point.
The film begins with an prologue in which we see Krishna (Nagulan, working hard), a gifted if self-centred basketball player. An on-court fatality involving his friend Shiva (Kreshna, in a guest appearance) leaves him demoralized and he decides to give up the game and move to Chennai. But, as his coach (Aadhi, another guest star) tells him, the game that he loves the most will definitely enter his life again. That happens in his new college, thanks to the college's egomaniacal cricket team captain Vamsi, who always belittles other sports and tries to scuttle the chances of the other sportsmen in the place. To put him in his place and defend his friends, Krishna challenges Vamsi that the college's basketball team will win a national tournament. But winning is not going to be easy, especially with an enraged Vamsi doing his best to foil the team's chances.
uses most of the sports movie constructs — underdog protagonists who must first overcome their differences before taking to the court, a no-nonsense coach, an offbeat training montage, fearsome opponents in the final, and a motivational speech by the hero which helps snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The one interesting variation here is the adversary — here, it is someone who plays a different game and so, the clash is not exactly on the field but off the field. Arivazhagan divides the narrative into two distinct halves. The first involves Krishna's challenges in putting together a team while in the latter, he keeps throwing obstacles (official indifference, politics, match-fixing, and even romance) in the team's path.
The film takes a while to get going after the epilogue as the director devotes quite some time on Krishna forming new relationships (both friendly and romantic) in his new college. But the film goes into top gear after Krishna's confrontation with Vamsi, culminating in a tense pre-interval on-court contest involving Krishna and Sundar, a third-year student, who the former wants to woo to his team. The second half never truly captures the high of this scene but Arivazhagan keeps things moving at a fairly fast clip (save for the romantic track, which takes far too much time than it should ideally do, especially with such a blah heroine) so the film doesn't turn dull.
The filmmaking too is a bit heavy-handed here when a little bit of understatement would have been welcome. Take the climatic final match. When Krishna and his teammates are playing, it is intercut with shots of Vamsi playing cricket on his mobile phone and his game's progress contrasts with what's happening on the court (when Krishna's team seems to be losing, he is hitting sixes and fours and as they start winning, he starts getting out). And the expressions of the opponent players (all of whom are foreign actors) are unintentionally funny.
But, by then, we are very much invested in the final clash and rooting for the protagonists so much that we feel a genuine rush when the movie ends. The rousing end credits, which feature notable sportspersons of our country (including a certain Tamil actor with a passion for racing!), only adds to the excitement.