Cast: Nakul, Mrudhula Basker, Atul Kulkarni, Anupama Kumar, Aadi Pinisetty, Jayaprakash, Y.G Mahendran and Krishna Kulasekaran
Director Arivazhagan's second venture Vallinam, which while addressing the aforementioned points, also highlights the discrimination between sports and sportsmen and shows how a certain sport like cricket has been glorified.
Although it might not be as powerfully engaging as Bollywood movie Chak De! India, the film has the spirit to celebrate sportsmanship.
An unfortunate accident during an inter-collegiate basketball tournament forces Krishna (Nakul) to quit playing the game for good and relocate to another city. From Trichy, he moves to Chennai, hoping to forget the incident and start life afresh.
But call it destiny or fate; he's forced to play again, but this time to stop his college management from destroying their basketball court to make way for the extension of the cricket ground for the upcoming national level cricket championship, to be hosted by the college.
You can find inspiration from films such as Lagaan, Chak De! India and several sports-based dramas of the recent past in Vallinam, but it manages to maintain some originality in the execution. It might not be a great film, but considering the fact that we don't have many sports-based films in Tamil, this is a great effort.
Even with a jagged screenplay that only gains momentum in the second half, the film manage keeps you hooked for the most part of the running time.
You root for the film when you realize that the actors took the effort to get trained in basketball, portraying the commitment with which they have prepared. Some of the best moments of the film unfold in the court, in between the game and when the ball spins in slow motion on the rim of the basket.
The tension that's accentuated through these moments is testimonial to the fact that the film has succeeded in entertaining the audience. But what's worrisome is whether the film will be embraced by all, irrespective of the fact that it has a college campus as backdrop and it's quite natural to assume it's made for college students.
Vallinam never tries to convince us that basketball is a better game than cricket. It reminds us that cricket is not the only sport that deserves to be celebrated in a country where we have other equally popular sports as well.
In this process, it gets little preachy at regular intervals with dialogues that are purposely written for commercial reasons, but it is understandable from the point of a view of catering to the masses. Nakul gives his career’s best performance. He proves that a hero can step out of the commercial zone and take up roles that can still be liked by audience.
Debutant Mrudhula will shine with proper guidance while the rest of the cast members are good in their respective roles. For a change, Thaman's music doesn't make you cringe in your seats. His background score syncs well with the second half, while Bhaskaran's celluloid captures the best shots during the basketball games.
Overall, Vallinam attempts to blur the line that divides one sport from another in our country.