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Upperstall Review


Chennai 600028


Tamil, Drama, Sports, 2007, Color

Cast And Crew

The Royapuram Rockers have beaten the Sharks the last three years in the finals of the radio Mirchi Chennai Gully Cricket Tournament and the two teams can't stand each other. Raghu's (Jai) parents move from Royapuram to Visalakshi Thottam, Chennai 600028. Raghu, a member of the Royapuram Rockers Cricket team and a college student living with his parents, has no choice but to move with them as he is obviously not excited at the prospect of living in the same area as his adversaries. Raghu is faithful to his old team but is angered at being replaced by a new guy in the team in one of the matches when a match starts ahead of schedule and he was unable to make it since he now lives a great distance away. Raghu estranges himself from cricket and Rockers. Karthik (Siva) loves Pazhali's (Nitin Sathya) sister, Selvi (Vijayalakshmi) and she appears to be be responding to Raghu since his father and Pazhani's father are friends. Neither Pazhani nor Raghu like this friendship. Meanwhile, Aravind (Aravind Akash), Shark's wicket-keeper and who works in a coffee shop, falls for Shweta (Christine), a rich customer. Karthik is about to have it out with Raghu for loving Selvi when Raghu tells him that she in fact loves Karthik and didn't know how to tell him and had asked Raghu to do so. Karthik, elated, warms up to Raghu and slowly other Shark memebers too befriend him and he becomes a part of their team determined to beat the Rockers the coming tournament. Pazhani comes to know of his sister's and Karthick's love affair is disappointed as you don't go after friend's sisters and then there is a fight amongst them. Karthick apologises to Pazhani saying the team and his friendship is more important to him and he will stay away from Selvi though he loves her sincerely. They reconcile. Unfortunately, before the key semi-final match with the Rockers, Karthick gets stabbed by his fixer brother's (Sampath) enemies and is hospitalised. He survives and Pazhani asks Selvi to look after him in the hospital. Wanting to win the tournament for Karthik, the Sharks finally defeat Rockers in the semi-finals of the tournament; only to meet another group of schoolboy tormentors, who had thrashed them earlier in a bet match, in the final...

Chennai 600028 marks an extremely sound directorial debut by Venkat Prabhu and yet again proves that ultimately content is king in a film and not the so-called star as the film went on to become a huge success on its release in 2007. One has to commend producers SPB Charan (SP Balasubramaniam's son) and JK Saravanana in backing first timer Prabhu for a film that is fresh, endearing and extremely engaging.

A lot of credit in the film must go to its well-written screenplay, looking at the lives of a motley group of people who form a gully cricket team, the Sharks. The story develops nicely along and care is taken to avoid cliches as far as possible within the story. The main characters are well fleshed out, are likeable and most importantly are treated as real and normal lower middle class people. The screenplay deftly keeps the story out of predictability and that is one of the film's biggest strengths. In fact, it is an extremely brave and courageous effort that the film tries to keep off time tested formulas. For one, the Rockers and Sharks meet in the semi-final of the tournament rather than in the typical big revenge match in a final and though, the team wants to win the cup for their injured mate, it ends on a light and ironic note with them struggling in the final against the very school boy team that knocked the socks off them in a bet match played on the beach earlier. In fact, the film is full of such light moments and thankfully many of the issues and conflicts are not treated as larger-than-life issues like in most mainstream films. But that is not to say that the film is just all smiles. It nicely captures moments of friendship, joy, pain, love, heartbreak and betrayal as it delves into the lives of the Sharks players while creating the lower middle-class milieu most convincingly.

As in any good human story, the film has its share of small memorable moments and well executed sequences. The scene with Karthik and Raghu turning friends is surprising and works extremely well in the film as does the sequence when Karthik sees Selvi in the hospital and she tells him Pazhani had asked her to look after him. The sequences of Raghu's hesitancy in going out in a locality where his adversaries stay bring a smile to the face while the moment when one of the players, an ambulance driver, breaks down telling the others what was going on in his mind as he drove a bleeding Karthik to the hospital, is as poignant a moment as any.

That said, there are moments where the film does appear a debutant director's work. Sometimes you feel Prabhu is trying too much, technically and otherwise as the film gets into too much of unnecessary stylization - different tones, split screens and what have you, going against the nature of the simplicity of the film. At times, certain sequences are inconsistent and do get into the worst of mainstream formulas like with some of the songs (far too many of them), the very thing the rest of the film tries so hard to avoid. In particular, the two songs between Aravind and Shwetha are big no-nos and are picturised very, very ordinarily as well and their romantic track is by far the weakest section of the film. The other romance between Karthik and Selvi too is just so-so but at least integrated properly into the film's main storyline. Being a story of the Sharks, the Rockers, though their biggest adversaries, are treated as a collective one dimensional group of not-so-nice guys and little more. Also, one wished the opening voice over introducing the Sharks didn't lay out all the cards on the table as it kind of tells you what to expect in the film. There was no need for this dumbing down as the film's narrative takes you through those very experiences in any case.

The performances are enthusiastic, a little rough in places as again, many of the performers are newcomers but yes, quite there. In fact, them being newcomers without baggage, make it more credible to believe in them as the characters they portray. Siva, Aravind Akash, Jai and Nithin Sathya all score heavily though Premgi was a little over the top, his catch line from Rajinikanth's dialogue in Chandramukhi not quite working. The girls have precious little to do but Vijayalakshmi, nevertheless, manages to leave her mark.

Technically, the film is adequate. One did feel a little looseness in the depiction of some of the actual cricket with some rapid montages cut to cover up and pace-up the film. However, the film has you gripped enough when the climax match with the Rockers is being played for you to happily go along with it.

All in all, Chennai 600028 is well-worth a watch.

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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