June 17, 2011
K.P. Nishan Nanaiah, Sunny Hinduja, Girija Oak, Ishita Sharma, Dwij Yadav, Tom Alter
It’s tough to say what I have to say about Cycle Kick because there’s something so warm and likeable about the film’s young lead cast, especially the quietly attractive Malayalam film actor K.P. Nishan Nanaiah playing Ramu, an odd-jobs-man trying desperately to make a living to educate his little brother, and all the while dreaming of playing football. There’s also the lovely Girija Oak (who we saw just recently in Shor In The City), playing a smaller role as the bada saab’s sister who Ramu falls for. Besides, it’s nice to see a moneyed producer like Subhash Ghai – best known for his big-budget masala films as a director – supporting small ventures by rank newcomers, some from his own film institute, and ensuring that they get released. But having seen Whistling Woods International graduate Sunny Bhambhani’s Love Express and now Shashi Sudigala’s Cycle Kick, it’s time to point out that those good intentions are not an excuse for either bad quality or “inspired” film making.
Cycle Kick is clearly a take-off on Vittorio De Sica’s classic Bicycle Thieves, but despite the magnificent source of inspiration, it’s a sadly tepid product. The story of an impoverished father and son in 1940s Italy is here transposed on to Ramu and Deva, brothers living in a small coastal town in contemporary India. They don’t have parents, so Ramu as the much older sibling works to support them. He makes a living pasting film posters around town. Deva prays that his brother gets a bicycle some day so that he can get around faster, do more work in less time, and fulfill all their dreams. Then one day, Ramu finds a misshapen bicycle lying abandoned on a beach. He lovingly repairs it and life starts looking up.
That frail machine on two wheels becomes a metaphor for all their hopes and dreams. But then the cycle is stolen... Many scenes later, following tensions between the boys from the lowly government college where Ramu works and an upper class neighbouring institution, there is a climactic football match that is so dull, it feels like an anti-climax. Since director Shashi Sudigala seems open to drawing from already-released sources, I wish he’d just watched Lagaan, Iqbal, Chak De India or a couple of Hollywood classics with sports as their centre to at least rev up that final game.
To be fair to this film, it’s not a scene-for-scene or situation-for-situation lift of Bicycle Thieves (no, that distinction must go to big-shot film makers like Pooja Bhatt who virtually Xeroxed Dirty Dancing for Holiday, Priyadarshan who carbon copied Mississippi Burning for Aakrosh, and other senior names). But Cycle Kick is such a lukewarm film, so completely lacking in energy or direction, that it can’t even be considered a fitting tribute to Bicycle Thieves. Apart from the potential of the lead cast and the pretty locations, I can think of nothing that works in its favour.
Rating (out of five): 1/2
CBFC Rating: U
Running time: 85 Minutes
Photograph courtesy: http://www.muktaarts.com/filmography/cyclekick.asp