Tamil Reviews

Clap Review: If At All This Movie Works, It is Thanks to Aadhi

After watching half a dozen sports dramas in the past few months, the idea of another one fills me with contempt, if not dread. For one thing, the template is almost always the same – a coach, weighed down by life, finds a talented athlete and tries to fulfil his dreams through them. I get that the relationship between an athlete and their coach is sacred and meaningful, but why does that have to be the only place where stories are found? Why can’t the coach be like Surya in Thamudu – present but professional? The only film that does great with this template is Shimit Amin‘s Chak De India, which came out in 2007, so it is probably time to move on.   


Clap is about former athlete Vishnu (Aadhi), an amputee. He finds out about a promising young athlete, Bhagyalakshmi (Krisha Kurup), from a village in Khammam. Her parents are murdered – we aren’t told why – and she has to give up running and try to get a job to escape marriage. Vishnu has a wife, Mithra (Aakanksha Singh), but they are far from happy. Vishnu also has an enemy in Venkatraman (Nassar), trying to stop Vishnu from succeeding. Your regular sports template. Hero has to overcome both the internal conflict and the external conflict.  

Mithra says at one point, “You are my husband’s missing leg.” I know it makes symbolic sense, but putting that much pressure on a young athlete feels cruel. A few dialogues allude to the caste-based disparity in sports – Nassar’s character says, “Even if we lose, we are the ones who represent the country in Olympics” – but it’s all too vague and gestural. Even the way the film’s exposition works is clumsy. Examples include the awkward reveal that Mithra’s friend is a single mother and the way Vishnu learns about Baghya via a subordinate, who sporadically comes and gives him the pertinent information. 

The film begins with title credits that tell us the story of Vishnu and his childhood. His relationship with his father (Prakash Raj) is minimally yet expansively conveyed to the viewer. Not all traditions are wrong because this is still the best way to narrate the backstory. Director Prithivi Adithya and editor Ragul do a great job with the scene transitions. Even if the actual races aren’t enticing, Praveen Kumar’s cinematography is dynamic enough to make up for it. Ilaiyaraaja‘s music isn’t given much space to breathe, but it is pleasant in places. Prithivi Adithya takes more time than necessary to reveal the backstory between Vishnu and Venkatraman – the twist about Vishnu’s accident is too convoluted, and, at the point of revelation, unnecessary.

If the film works, it’s because of the central performance by Aadhi. He is always a reliable actor, but his performance needed to be physical here. As a man suffering from Phantom Limb syndrome, he is excellent in those scenes where his character is in excruciating pain. But we don’t see any emotional depth in his characterisation. We don’t know how he feels about the accident. Whether it’s anger or guilt, it always comes out in screams and never in moments of contemplation. This problem carries itself forward in how his relationship with his wife is written. The equation is Jersey-esque (“I love you, even if nothing I do conveys that”) and Akanksha Singh does a decent job with the material; she is marvellous in the final scene. 


Clap makes the mistake of focusing too much on the coach rather than the player(s). Bhagyalakshmi, the girl who drives the story forward, barely gets a backstory. We know who/what motivates Vishnu, but what drives the girl? However, the film never pretends to be about the girl. It partially works as a movie about a broken man piecing his life together, but as a sports drama, it needed, well, more drama.  


This Clap review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.