BOMBERS REVIEW - This bomb is only partly explosive

BOMBERS REVIEW - This bomb is only partly explosive
Movie Rated

Sports dramas are always at a relative disadvantage in comparison to the other genres because of the limits set or created within conventional filmmaking tropes in that space. Also, you could blame it on the storytellers' laziness to latch onto a readymade-successful template. The rise, the fall, the journey, the comeback of a sportsperson are by now very familiar and done-to-death threads in sports stories regardless of the medium. So it really takes a narrative with some mind-boggling conviction to nudge a viewer to watch a sports story, make them forget these stereotypes and draw them into the emotional journeys of its protagonists. Zee5's latest web series Bombers nearly does that to you but fizzles out quicker than expected. The premise surrounding the revival of a local football club in Kolkata and their fight for pride might sound basic as a storyline but the advantage rests with the knowledge that such a football-based theme hasn't been explored well enough in the Indian entertainment industry before. And that presents some opportunity to break new ground in storytelling (with the absence of a reference point). Sadly, for this series entirely surrounding football, it's a shame that the detailing about the game is its biggest weakness. The series works better when it ventures into the lives of the players beyond the game. The filmmaking standards, the visual opulence and the passion for the craft are all there minus the flourish in the writing and performances. The series commences through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker who traces the journey of the popular football club Bombers FC in Kolkata featuring interviews with its captain, team members, coach among a few. The story dates back to the day when the entire team of the club, but for Badol, meets its end at a road accident while returning from a football match. Their survival as a club is threatened with the unforeseen tragedy and things don't change for the better over a two-year span. The club's destiny hangs in the balance with the threat of its home ground illegally being taken over by Manik Dasgupta, the Urban Development minister for the State. However miraculously, they get a chance to rebuild the team from scratch. From the hunt for the coach to zeroing in on the players to making their presence felt on the field, how will Bombers FC fare? The season one did have fair potential to be a gripping drama, if not for its formula-driven approach and its apparent attempt to mimic the team-building sequences from Shah Rukh Khan's Chak De India. It's the personalised stories of the players that merit more interest than the on-field action. The director makes good use of the backstories of the young football team hailing from diverse backgrounds. Some of the team members include a homosexual who's raised in Sonagachi, a petty thief who's looking for an alternative path to life, a clothes-shop owner who's passionate about the game, a sex-starving delivery guy who has a ball with his customers (literally), a politician's son keen to establish his identity and a former player-turned-coach undergoing a divorce and raising his teenage son. The director is unfazed by the overload of characters and draws the viewer into their world with focus. It's also pathbreaking in a way that a storyteller takes the effort to discuss the closeted sexual identities of sportspersons in the country, an aspect untouched by Indian filmmakers to date. However, the seamlessness ceases to exist when the characters come together on the field. The professional and personal lives of the players don't merge with ease. There are obvious conflicts among the players that don't create any surprise, a.l.a a stern coach trying to bury the hatchet between them and a dramatic situation that brings them together despite all odds. The shots of the football games in the series lack any vigour and are barely pulsating in the bulky screen-time they take up. Ranvir Shorey is extremely disappointing in his over-the-top performance as the coach; all that he keeps saying is the yawn-worthy line 'come on, you guys can do it, please focus'. With the nuances of the game being undermined, there's little to keep a viewer interested. The political backdrop of the series is portrayed in a black-and-white exterior; it's always the minister versus the players and there's nothing captivating about their tussles. The minister has the manpower and the team 'supposedly' has the will-power. The danger that the digital medium presents is its freedom to sexualise content of all genres beyond necessity. The issue extends further with this series because of its effort to promote misogyny as an epitome of coolness. A football player proudly says that he can make out with a woman for over 99 minutes and calls his team-mates 'girls' for their inability to last long in making-out sessions. To add salt to this wound, there's a line where the former also promises to share his supposed 'sex-video' as proof. Though a misogynistic character can exist in stories, the maker should have stopped short of glorifying him. The performances are just about okay, but the strong characterisation helps the viewer see through the acting deficiencies of the cast. Varun Mitra, may not have the expressional range deemed right for the role, yet makes the viewer feel for him at crucial junctures. There's some sincerity to convey his intentions through his eyes. Ranvir Shorey scores better when he plays a father to a teenager than as a coach of the budding team. He's very good in depicting his 'broken-soul' expression when he looks back at his regrets in life. Zakir Hussain, another notable actor who's increasingly being stereotyped to roles in sports dramas, sleepwalks through the part of an assistant coach. Television actor Anup Soni as the crooked politician is surprisingly dull in his one-note performance. Other recognisable faces Aahana Kumra, Meiyang Chang, Shivam Patil, Prince Narula don't have much to offer. Kolkata's legacy gets some justice through the frames, capturing the essence of the city reasonably well. Director Vishal Furia shows his adeptness at handling a sports-drama after dealing with a crime thriller like Criminal Justice. The sparkles in this series are restricted to its novel characterisation, the much-needed focus on football in Kolkata and an interesting story outline. Forget a few intermittent hiccups and you may not be disappointed. Meanwhile, season two, to release on July 10, seems an opportunity to set things right maybe? Rating: 2.5/5

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