By Vishnu Mahesh Sharma
Very early in Sudhanshu Sharma’s ‘Love-All’, we see a man who has just returned to his childhood city, Bhopal. But there is no glitter, spark, vivacity and nostalgia in his eyes upon his return to the roots. The eyes are filled with an infinite void. They carry haunting effects of broken dreams. But when this man, Siddharth Sharma (KK Menon) is on his way home from the railway station, we hear a song in the background. A part of the song goes like this – ‘Raat mein paidal ghoom ke duniya, suraj shahar mein phir laut raha hai’.
Thus, if film-art is a wonderful confluence of sound and visuals, then this song and Siddharth’s new journey in his old city are a confluence of visible despair of his eyes and hope of life. Without any elaborative, long and verbose dialogues, these first 5 minutes, this song and Kay Kay Menon’s eyes, establish characters and the story in a manner, which, perhaps, even a few hundred words of a narrator could not have done.
What trigger a transformation, from ennui and frustration to new zeal, in Sidhdharth’s life, are the relationships – one new, one old. Circumstances force his son to pick the same badminton racket, which Sidhdharth’s has been despising. Hence, for Sidhdharth, the life starts turning around and coming back to the same point. Siddharth had run away from all this. He does not want this for his son. But when Soma (Swastika Mukherjee) dispels his fears by holding his hands, it really feels as if she is holding Siddharth’s hand from the dark well of the past and pulling him out in the light of today. Thus, it is not surprising that the name of today’s light, Siddhartha’s son, is Aditya, which is a synonym for the Sun.
The film is based on a sport and it consciously does not even attempt to amend the constitution of sports-based-films. But within the ambit of those rules and laws, the film successfully conveys quite a few things. Case in point, many movies say that parents should not impose their dreams on their children, but this story tells that parents have no right to impose the burden, of their failures and shattered dreams,either, on their children.
There are cute little small dialogues, whose resonance is very deep. For instance, when Aditya wants to watch the CD of a match – after which Siddharth lost his city, dream, sport and himself – Vijju (Sumit Arora) tells Aditya that “Ye tuti hui hai”. Aditya interrupts him “Mujhe to tuti hui nahi dikh rahi.” To which Vijju replies “andar se tuti hui hai.” When Aditya, eventually, watches that CD, we, along with him, understand that not only the CD is broken but also the person inside it and his dreams are equally shattered and tattered.
Life starts coming full circle for Sidhdharth after a confrontation and reconciliation with the past. He comes back to Bhopal; he comes back to sports but more importantly, he comes back to his relationships. In a very cute sequence, this “full circle” of life echoes in the next generation also. Aditya gives a sweet gift, covered in a badminton shuttle, to a girl who is his classmate. And we have already seen how shuttles play a very sweet role in the love story of Siddharth and Soma as well.
Another tenderly touching sequence is there, when Siddharth repairs his old racket at home for his son and an old engine in the railway yard. The new hope that he has found reflects both in his personal and professional lives. This gives a depth to both, the character and the story. We see the same depth in the relationship between Siddharth and his wife (Sriswara) for the arc of this relationship also progresses somewhat on the lines of Siddharth’s character arc. Siddharth’s life comes full circle and with it comes all his relationships to full circle.
Another small victory of the film is, all these relationships and surrounding drama, do not become a hindrance in the main story of the film. In fact, they remain an extension of the main plot. For example, the love story of Siddharth-Soma is not very drawn out. This story packs and delivers required depth within a short period through very few, but impactful, dialogues and scenes.
I especially found their last conversation, before they parted ways, and the use of it to be amazing. In this, Soma wants to tell Siddharth what is the biggest match for a person. When we hear it for the first time, this dialogue is not narrated fully. The last part of the dialogue is kept hidden from the audience. But when that last part is told to us, it is, off course, freshfor us but despite being heard before, it is equally new and fresh for Siddhartha as well. In fact, this becomes the point after which we see the second (or rather third) incarnation of Siddhartha. The father, who used to shut the window on his son’s face, is determined to guide him in his journey.
The post-intermission portions of the film seem a bit sluggish due to repetition but, in a Dangal-like touch, we see a friction in the father-son relationship post interval as well. Thus, these imaginative parts, to some extent, save the film from the curse of predictability.
If KK Menon in his opening scenes shows us what a seasoned actor can do with his eyes, then Swastika Mukherjee shows us how another seasoned actor can leave his mark on the story even in a short screen time.
The casting of real badminton players, to portray players, makes the match scenes believable. Their fall, getting up after falling, reaching from one corner of the court to another, jumping, playing different shots – all these look very real. That is why it is not surprising that the use of VFX in the film is negligible.
The one thing that peeves is Aditya’s main rival ShauryaPratap. He is projected as an arrogant and egoistic player. The portrayal of this character seems like that of a villain. If this character had been kept a little humane, the film would have benefited more. Especially when the final match is less about Aditya versus Shaurya and more about the sport/players versus the system.
However, it is also a good thing that the duration of the film is as much as the story deserves. Certain, unavoidable, elements of the second half do make the film somewhat familiar. But the commitment of the cast, the simple yet brilliant writing and the assured direction, make the film endearing too.
The film hums like a melodious song that if the flame of hope is burning in the mind, then listen to the heart, life is announcing love-all every single moment. You have fallen, but if you are ready to rise, then even in the gloomiest of the times, some window is opened for sunlight. And this sunlight coming from the window, does not haunt the eyes, like a broken dream, but, like a sunshine, washes away the dark corners of the mind and heart. This successful telling of bitter-sweet, on and off court,experiences, through a delicate story, is the real victory of the film.