Hockey

Review Of A1 Express: Celebrating The Neglected National Sport

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Starring Sundeep Kishan and Lavanya Tripathi while Murali Sharma and Rao Ramesh

Directed by Dennis Jeevan & Kanukolanu

Rating: ***

In real life and movies,hockey has always got the wrong end of the stick. Just the fact that a Telugu film celebrating the neglected national sport, and also delving into the politics that colours and compromises all sports and games in our country, is pitched into the commercial arena is gratifying enough.

A1 Express gives to the definition of ‘Commonwealth Games’ an ironic colour. While sports persons die in penury the movers and shakers playing their own games from behind the field, dig into the their ill-earned wealth .This is no country for professional sportsmanship.

This week’s big Telugu release delves into all of the above. There is a disgraced national hockey champ Sundeep Reddy(Sundeep Kishan). He is very angry. But we don’t get to see his wrath until much later.A major part of the first-half goes into Sundeep’s courtship of a fiery provincial hockey player Lavanya(Tripathi). Sundeep seems to have little to do except faff around with his hanger-on , tail the hockey-playing chick until it all begins to get a annoying.

Only then does the narrative finally gathers its wits together , switches gears from being a flippant take on a neglected sport , to actually getting down in the field to get the knees and hands dirty in the mud.

There is a dirty sports minister(Rao Ramesh) who wants to sell off the national stadium named after hockey legend Chitti Babu , to ruthless entrepreneurs. There is an honest sports coach Murli(Murali Sharma, curiously all the main characters are named after the actors who play the characters). There is furious flashback in which a hockey-playing team mate Darshi(played by an actor named Priyadarshi) who commits suicide after being snubbed and sidelined by an evil sports coach.

Everything that a sports film is supposed package under one roof, including of course the big climactic tournament, is there in this film . The plot is not quite assembled with the acumen of an expert craftsman.But it ambles along interestingly. Sundeep Kishan is rightfully the star of the show. He presides over the plot with confidence. From among the rest of the cast, Posani Krishna Murli and Rao Ramesh are interesting. The ladies have nothing to do. Lavanya Tripathi who bustles and bristles in the first-half vanishes as the boys take over the field.Chak De and the girl players long forgotten.

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