Cast: Sasikumar, Bharathiraja, Meenakshi Govinda Raj
There’s a scene in Kennedy Club that can be right out of any Sasikumar film. Or, just any film with a male lead, a hero who wants to flaunt his heroship. Sasikumar as Muruganandam, a former Kabbadi player and the acting coach of one of the women’s district teams of Tamil Nadu, swivels a stalk of corn as one would a machete. Facing him is a group of errant men who’ve dared to oppose him. Muruganandam takes them all down without breaking the stalk – or stride – or the corncob. Surrounding him are women players under his tutelage who cheer him on. In yet another, Bharathiraja as Savadamuthu, the actual coach of the team, learns that one of the best players had tried to kill herself. He marches in for a bedside visit, slaps her, launches into a discourse about the futility of suicide. This glaring insensitivity prevails through much of Kennedy Club and what it intends to portray.
Presumably about a women’s sports team, their travails, triumphs, and their personal struggles – and there’s a whole lot of fluff in an attempt to check boxes – the film, and its values, are clear as day only during these moments; these unconscious slips that provide a window into the director’s thoughts. Sasikumar and Bharathiraja take it in turns to deliver sermons. They lead, they preside over, and even sit in judgment over a tale that, by the director’s own intentions, must belong to the women. Kennedy Club’s predecessor – Kanaa – had narrowed its sights on a young woman from rural Tamil Nadu whose desire to play professional cricket was validated on screen by Sathyaraj and Sivakarthikeyan – two heroes whose star power – and well, gender – were necessary to present quite the radical theme such as that. Having said that though, Kanaa had some lovely touches: it followed Kousi (Aishwarya Rajesh) as she grew up from being a passive spectator of the sport, to realising her desire of turning sportsperson.
Kennedy Club makes no pretense to deviate from this established script – that of a group of women, in this case, sportspersons, in constant need of support, someone to fight their battles and tell them what to do. It engages Sasikumar and Bharathiraja not in the way that can be called cheerleading, or gentle encouragement, but in a manner that is evidently patronising. The players crowd around Bharathiraja or Sasikumar at various points in the film, in fawning admiration. The opposition they face, both societal and the otherwise, are coloured with a distinctly male perspective, and resolved too, by the men in the film. The struggles aren’t new either, and rarely explore the psyche of young women battling discrimination at home and on the field. The team squabbles, the selection committee is corrupt, and the parents of young women aren’t too enthused about their daughters’ choice of profession. Sasikumar walks about town convincing the parents of the women in his team with words that seem as vacuous and faux as the intentions of the film. They relent as one, and that’s that. The conflicts manufactured in the script seem solely meant for Sasikumar and Bharathiraja to solve. For instance, Sasikumar’s integrity is called into question, and the last hour is devoted to him as he goes about reclaiming it. The women then, whose tales of woe and determination the film begins with, collectively work towards restoring Sasikumar’s honour, with a boring play-out thrown in to accelerate proceedings. It’s perhaps one of the worst films in the genre.
The Kennedy Club review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.