Ashok Selvan and Shanthanu Bhagyaraj make engaging presence in a film that takes a simple storytelling method to talk about politics involved in cricket
Ashok Selvan and Shanthanu Bhagyaraj get together for Blue Star, a cricket-based drama that delves into what happens in sports beyond the pitch. At one point in the film, Ranjith’s (Ashok Selvan) ardent Christian mother (Lizzie Antony), who is against her son playing cricket, asks, “Indha ooruku perumaiya panjam?” (Is there a shortage of pride in this village?). The dialogue might be said casually in between what may seem like a common household argument. But in Blue Star, which is presented by filmmaker Pa Ranjith and features an unabashed splash of BR Ambedkar and Buddha imagery, the tone with which the word “pride” is uttered can be understood with a clear subtext. And thus begins the drama in Blue Star, which is essentially the rivalry between two cricket teams, Blue Star, captained by Ranjith, and Alpha, whose head Rajesh (Shanthanu Bhagyaraj) hails from a slightly privileged caste background. But as situations turn around and the teams are forced to join forces against a common opponent, Blue Star becomes a film that essentially wants to talk about politics in sports, but gets its honest intentions meddled with elaborate sequences and too many other pertinent issues just being brushed on the surface.
Debutant filmmaker S Jayakumar takes on big responsibilities to talk about the intersectional politics that is prevalent in sports. Set against the backdrop of Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu, and though there is no insufficiency of Ambedkar images, the director chooses to establish the households of Rajesh and Ranjith in a clever manner, informing the hierarchical ladder they fall under. On the other hand, Anandhi (Keerthi Pandian), Ranjith’s love interest, brings a gender-based perspective to the arena. As much as the portions she comes in fit well into the narrative and pass the sexy lamp test, her role cut short in the later crucial portions of the film does not withstand being called a strong woman character. However, the same cannot be said for other supporting characters. Bagavathi Perumal as a celebrated former Blue Star player, Ilango Kumaravel as an empathic father, Prithvi Rajan as a brother who wears his heart on his sleeve, and Lizzie Antony as a god-fearing mother make up for good support, with each of them contributing to the other development of the story
If a wall was the topic of contention in Pa Ranjith’s Madras, a cricket ground is one in Blue Star. Jayakumar does not leave the grip of the sports element in the film and honestly tries to balance the sportsmanship and the dirty business that elitism and casteism bring to the table. In one instance, a star player pats the back of his opponent, who delivers his best on the pitch. There is one scene that subtly shows this, but the film wants to make its point and goes on to have an elaborate scene minutes later.
Ashok Selvan and Shanthanu play their characters with ease and utmost conviction. If Ranjith, who faces discrimination, transforms into an angry young man, Rajesh’s cycle of oppression comes back to him, and that’s when the real film kicks off. And Shanthanu does it with utmost conviction, underplaying his character, making it the most interesting part of his acting. On the other hand, Ashok Selvan carries the weight of the film on his shoulders. There is a clear distinction he brings as the lead that eventually translates into an honest performance onscreen. But it’s sad to see the skin darkening of the actors, ignoring the politics of colour and imagery that have been going on for a while.
While the intentions might be good, Blue Star’s chain of events that take us through the story is rather simple or too elongated. There are multiple matches and multiple opponents for our heroes, and sometimes you tend to grow tired of cheering them up.
Blue Star might have its shortcomings, but the film cannot be disregarded merely for those. There are moments that show the true spirit of the sport, but there are also stretches that warrant a re-edit and chopping. The constant battles and absence of mounting tension rob Blue Star of the adrenaline rush sports dramas give. But Blue Star is an honest attempt at portraying cricket politics, but with a rather simple storytelling.