While the young women kabaddi players are riveting, the film could have gone easy on the preaching.

Kennedy Club review An engaging sports drama on women kabaddi players
Flix Kollywood Thursday, August 22, 2019 - 17:37
Worth a watch

Director Suseenthiran has given us intense sports films like Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu and Jeeva in the past. His latest Kennedy Club too is a quality addition to this list. The film has Sasikumar, Bharathiraja and Murali Sharma in important roles but the real stars are undoubtedly the young women who give us the intense kabaddi matches.

The film begins with Sasikumar’s god-like voiceover, which we’ve heard plenty of times, explaining the origins of the game. Unsurprisingly, kabaddi is pegged to ‘Tamil’ pride, with also references to jallikattu. “Men practised kabaddi to prepare themselves for the final test of taming the bull aka jallikattu,” says the voiceover.

The only welcome part about Sasikumar’s voiceover is his quick introduction to how the game is played. The film begins with Murugananthan (Sasikumar) training a group of girls on how to play kabaddi. To the audience, he narrates how he reached this point in his life.

Savada Muthu (played by Bharathiraja), Murugananthan’s coach, is now training a women’s kabaddi team, Kennedy Club, from Dindigul. In one of the film’s earliest scene, and its best, Savada Muthu fiercely tells his girls to not spare any of the men who’ve been teasing them from the outside. “Amidst hardships, you’ve come to where you are now. All these taunts should never stop you. You should stop them instead,” he bolsters them. 

And to everyone’s surprise, highlighted by the paati’s jaw-drop in one frame, the girls don’t just win the game but literally flip and flick the men out from the playing field like they’re just wooden toys. 

The film builds up steam with every kabaddi match, with the girls having us on the edge of our seats for most of them. The climax, shot with real players in an indoor stadium, is one of the best sports sequences shown in a Tamil film. The players are brilliant and it’s hard to pick out a favourite.

Kennedy Club also discusses some of the problems faced by young women who aspire to succeed in sports. It establishes a strong background for every character at the beginning, and that helps the audience form a bond with each of these girls. Minor instances from their lives, like how one of them cut her hair to avoid marriage and continue being a player, how another pawned her mother’s jewellery for the latter’s cancer treatment, make them more than just ‘a player’ on the screen.

However, one may feel that the tone that the film sets in the beginning, when Savada Muthu boosts his team’s spirits, falters towards the end, especially when Murugananthan, in one of his final pep-talks, says, “Your parents are the ones who will have to be appreciated. They have let you play even if they had to go through insults thrown at them by society.” Why take the credit away from the girls?

Savada Muthu’s emotional outbursts seem overdone in places and Murugananthan’s deadpan delivery of advice in his god-like voice, too, get tedious after a while. Ironically, in one scene, he says, “Experience teaches better than any advice.” We wish the team had taken this dialogue seriously.

Kennedy Club also handles rejection better than the average sports film by not delving on a particular character’s failure. This comes as an appreciable change in the usual sport’s drama narrative that often shows a failed sportsperson taking drastic, self-destructive decisions.

The film also has an energising soundtrack that amps up the excitement we feel while watching these games. One quibble, however, is the casting choice of the coach. The film, at some level, reinforces the notion that only a man be a woman’s saviour. How much longer before we see an Indian sports film with a woman coach as there are in real life?

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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