Today is the 19th birthday of my son Saurav. He has a billion dreams in his eyes. I am a loving father and a loving father always wants his son/daughter to become a winner in life. Even if a father himself is a loser in life, he does not want the same to happen to his generation next. That’s always the attitude of loving and caring parents. But what about the attitude of the children when they see their father/mother undergoing the pain of losing in life ?
Hindi movie Toolsidas Junior (2022) tries to answer this question. Based on the less popular game of Snooker, this movie narrates the saga of a father who is capable of winning the Snooker championship played in the local (but high profile) club but always loses due to his being an alcoholic and the trophy goes to his arch-rival. This father is Toolsidas (Rajiv Kapoor) and his rival is Jimmy (Dalip Tahil). Toolsidas’ wife (Tasveer Kamil) remains unhappy due to her husband’s alcoholism and the problems arising out of that. However the most sorry figure is his younger son Mridul aka Midi (Varn Buddhadev) who is just a kid but is able to feel the pain of his father who is caught in the vicious cycle of failure-depression-alcohol consumption-failure.
Midi wants to see his father as a winner but always ends up seeing him as a loser. After undergoing many adventures with his confused and astray elder brother, he finally decides to restore his father’s pride by becoming a winner in the contest. Where there is a will, there is a way. His will takes him to a retired Snooker player and former national Snooker champion Salaam Bhai (Sanjay Dutt) who guides him and trains him to play the game.
Comes the yearly tournament again and Toolsidas once again gets himself registered as a player. However this time, he is not the only participant coming from his family. Midi also gets himself registered but under the name of Toolsidas Junior. Now both the senior Toolsidas and junior Toolsidas are up against a formidable Jimmy in the tournament (alongwith the other participants, of course). And Midi, playing as Toolsidas Junior finally restores his father’s lost pride by winning the tournament, getting the better of Jimmy in the final.
And since it’s the real life story of the filmmaker (we believe his words), the movie is full of life. Despite a flat story, it keeps the viewer hooked throughout because the narrator narrates straight from his heart. The audience roots for the protagonist (knowing very well that he’s going to win in the end) and that’s really a big achievement for a movie like this. It’s a sports drama but more than the sport, it’s the drama soaked in sentiments that encompasses the spectators.
It’s a simple story with a predictable end. It’s a winner nonetheless. Only at the end of the narrative, we do come to know that it’s based on the real life story of the filmmaker Mridul Mahendra and by making this movie, he has paid homage to his father. The way, the filmmaker has asserted in an interview, he brought back the lost glory of his father, the same way it’s shown as done by the protagonist child of the story.
Billiards and Snooker are expensive games which are not affordable for the commoners. The rich and the high only can afford them and that too by joining the membership of any relevant club and not by purchasing the necessary equipments to play at home. It’s clearly shown in the movie also as to how difficult it becomes for the kid to follow his passion to learn the game (as a matter of fact to make his father regain his lost pride). The film is realistic for the most part of it. The episode of the protagonist trying his hand on different things to earn money at the instigation of his good-for-nothing elder brother could have been done away with, in my view.
The movie is an emotional drama which not only underscores the fact that alcoholism is the mother of troubles and woes in a person’s life (covering the life of his family members too) but also depicts the pain of living with the feeling of being a loser. The little son knows that his father wants to come before him as a winner only and it’s extremely painful for him when the reverse happens. He empathizes with his father and since he wants his father’s name to appear on the board showing the list of champions, he participates in the tournament not under his own name but under the name of his father, suffixing the word ‘junior’ to it. It’s a motivational tale of a kid’s journey to achieve what his father wanted to achieve. And indirectly (without sermonizing) it renders the eternal message – Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. The movie is completely free from melodrama and the pleasant ending has also been kept low profile. In fact, subtlety is one of the biggest strengths of this movie.
It’s the last movie of Late Rajiv Kapoor, the youngest son of the legendary Raj Kapoor. It was supposed to be his comeback movie but as fate would have it, it couldn’t be possible and his admirable performance showcasing his acting range came before the audience after his demise only. Sanjay Dutt has given a terrific performance in the role of a former champion now living in isolation. The script-writer (who is none else but the director himself) has done the right thing by giving him a meaty role with entertaining one-liners but still using his star power sparingly, not allowing it to overpower the role of the protagonist. Tasveer Kamil as the mother and Chinmai Chandranshuh as the elder brother have done well alongwith the other supporting cast members. Dalip Tahil is amazingly subtle in the role of the antagonist. But all said and done, the movie finally rests on the tender shoulders of Varun Buddhadev as Midi. He is the heart and soul of this movie. He has not played but lived this role.
The story is set in Kolkata and the art director has done a brilliant job by portraying the city vividly as it might have been during the period of the story (early nineties). The editor has also done a good job by keeping the length of the movie under check. Background score and other technical aspects are also in order. Music is also good.
It’s a presentation of Lagaan fame Ashutosh Gowarikar who has undoubtedly supported a noble cause by bringing the inspiring story of Mridul Mahendra before the public. The movie has deservingly won the national award (under the Hindi movie category). It’s a film meant for all the fathers and all the sons and reminds me of the quote of Horace – Deep in the cavern of the infant’s breast, the father’s nature lurks, and lives anew.
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