With an IQ of 137, we have Mohan Kumar(Rajesh Tailang) opening as the overbearing, abusive father projecting his dreams onto his two kids: Radha (Yash Dholye) and Manju (Mohammad Samad). This forms the crux of Netflix’s show, based on Aravind Adiga’s eponymous book. While it hits a few sweet spots, it also misses the mark by a significant margin.
I went in without a lot of expectations, given that I do not enjoy cricket or any sports centric show at all. That said, this show did rouse an absent cricket fanatic within me at times. It is an unconventional story wrapped in a very conventional and dare I say a very clichéd packaging. Set in the Evil big city of Big dreams and failed prodigies, the Kumar triad ambled on in order to fulfil their sizable ambitions: of becoming the best cricketers and making bank. This is what Mohan (Tailang) desires, and throughout the entirety of the series he is just like this – me, me, me. A raging narcissist flabbergasted at his kids (they might as well be puppets for him) being kicked out of all the major cricket clubs in Mumbai, he sees the world as an adversary set out to destroy him due to him being poor. He scoffs at the rich, calling them very colorful words but aspires to be the very same “ameer kay c****”. Constantly hovering over the boys, policing their every move (even waiting outside the bathroom to prevent them from depleting their testosterone. Cough cough) He’s every Indian kid’s nightmare parent. It was also tastefully carried out by Tailang, and it doesn’t really feel like he’s acting at all. However, there is a dearth of any depth to the character. This is more of the writers fault, however. We don’t get any context to his behaviour, nor did I ever feel a shred of empathy for him. The absent mother is also another failed opportunity where a lot of the weight of the show rests on. A lot of background is missing, as we never really find out in the midst of the conflicting entries by the characters.
Part of the first half of the show serves as foreshadowing to climax of the story, however. This is not a show where romance plays a very significant role, as the tension is built up and diffused every time anything starts between two characters. This was done probably to keep to spotlight of the show in place. All the romance is focused on the lady love that is Cricket. While Radha loves it dearly, Manju is torn between cricket and his mistress, Science. This was a clever reversal done by the writers, as Radha clearly only wants to pursue his dreams of becoming an engineer, while rejecting any charity offered onto him. While he is good at it, he is not passionate about it. You know, sort of like, “I love you but I am not in love with you”. Constantly under the shadow of the “Champion number one” and expected to be coy and support his brother in every endeavor, the writers do a clever work of juxtaposing his ambitions to that of Radha and Mohan. A character of contention here is Javed (Karanvir Malhotra), a torn, handsome rich kid hiding under a thin veil of anger and meanness. We’ve come across this character several times, as he almost ardently follows the trope. Egos of him and the boys clash, sparks fly. Sparks catch on and destructive fires follow, literally.
The second half of the show is where events catch some pace, albeit a hurried one. The beauty of the story is lost in all the side stories and character arcs, deviating greatly and not setting the foundation for any character in the end. The rambunctious principle, Nellie Weinberg is an original and easy to love character played brilliantly by Ratna Pathak Shah, and the Disgraced coach Tommy Sir (Mahesh Manjrekar) who carried out his part with finesse. Several of the characters are definitely forgettable, to say the least.
The show does leave you with positive emotions despite ending on a cliffhanger. The charm of the show comes from its unwavering desiness, which is decorated with a few choice words and some cliche dialogues to pave the way for its authenticity. In the end, my biggest gripe remains Mahesh Manjrekar’s out of place hairstyle.
I give it 3 chirps.