Wilson, a cricketer in 1985, and Ruby, a badminton player in 1993 are on the brink of success, only for it all to be taken away. Wilson (a perfectly mercurial Shashank whose story plays, somewhat distractedly in monochrome) and his superior skills cause anxiety in the cricket team he wants to play for and Ruby (Annie as the younger Ruby and Kalpika Ganesh as the older one, both performing with simplicity and resignation) refuses to sleep with one of the important members of the council that makes the decision of who gets selected. Wilson turns to alcohol abandoning his loving wife, and Ruby goes on to live the life of a housewife, popping i-pills, vexed by her abusive husband.
Then, in 2007 Suri (a coy but powerful Priyadarshi Pulikonda), a rifle expert, is in a similar position. His selection to the big league is hanging on frivolous ifs-and-buts that have nothing to do with his talent, which like that of Wilson and Ruby is ineffable. The story is how these three sports-people, one Christian, one Muslim and one Hindu, with stories of sports and ache spread across decades, come together, to make the dreams of this one sports-man, Suri, come true.
While this story of cutting across barriers of religion and class (all three come from lower middle class backgrounds) is easy fodder for rousing cinematic moments, especially in a sports drama, the 5 hour run-time of this show was largely sterile. The most the needle moved was when the sexual harassment that Ruby experienced in 1993 resurfaces in 2007. It’s the same man. What could feel like a rather tepid coincidence, is used to make a larger point. The reason to report crime is not only for justice to be served to the person who endured the violence, but on behalf of all those in the future who would have to endure similar violence if this violator is allowed to go scot-free. It’s this duality of justice that was quite refreshing to see, for the narrative of justice in cinema and streaming, is mostly revenge related.
While the broader arc of disillusionment and sports victory plays on, it is the smaller, sub-plots that remain in your thoughts even as the end credits have scrolled and gone. More than a decade later when Ruby goes back to her school, and Suri notices her there, he asks “What are you doing here?” You quickly realize that he is asking her this question, not because it is a school and she is not a student or a teacher there, but because it is a Saraswati Vidyalaya and Ruby’s Muslim proclivities are visible in the covered forehead. She mentions off-handedly that this school was her Maulana school before it was made into what it is today. The horrors of the Babri Masjid are humming in the anxious air of Ruby’s whereabouts. Her school’s rechristening was but another nail in the coffin of our secular ideals. But none of this needed to be stated. Neither was the fact that the three of them come from different religious backgrounds, which apart from Ruby, aren’t obviously shown.
Where the show slips up is when it starts becoming preachy, about victory and fortitude. It drags, and honestly these characters haven’t earned the opportunity to be preachy. Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Sattar Minute’ speech comes only after a few hours of us seeing him stretch and tire, worry and lose heart, and that is why we listen. (Apart from the fact that it was a beautifully penned speech) Here, characters we are barely acquainted with pop up and deliver sermons that nobody asked nor cares for. Even the climactic sports scene which is supposed to be tense slackens because Suri’s constant voiceover in his head of these banal motivational monologues. It not only destroys the tension but bloats the duration of the show, which could have been axed a few half-hours. It’s odd then that for what attempted to be a rousing sports drama, the most rousing moments were unrelated to both sports, and drama.