During one of the scenes in Clap, a sports journalist states that a cricketer getting a minor injury is a cover-worthy story while an athlete winning a gold medal is relegated to just a snippet.
Well, a similar thing happens in our Tamil movies as films about athletics don’t often get the same treatment as cricket-based projects get. Eeti, probably the only other Tamil film I could think of based on athletics, is more an action thriller than a sports film. Perhaps, the directors think there is a lack of ‘drama’ in this format of the sport.
However, director Prithivi Adithya has not one but two athletes as the protagonists of his debut film, Clap. He amps up the masala in this film by making his athlete hero Kathir (Aadhi) an amputee and decides to focus heavily on his internal battles rather than the ones on the track. Make no mistake, this isn’t a film about an aspiring Paralympian but a wounded soul who wakes up one day to find himself stewing in a mundane desk job.
Without a doubt, Clap warrants applause whenever it explores the post-traumatic stress and the Phantom Limb Syndrome of Kathir. I also liked how the relationship between a persistent Mithra (Aakansha) and the broken Kathir develops in the film. This dynamic could have turned toxic in the hands of an inept creator, but Prithivi ensures that the relationship has underlying mutual respect.
The film on runners faces its first hurdle (pun intended) when it actually enters the tracks. Krisha Kurup’s Bhagyalakshmi is an orphan from an oppressed caste, and she fits the template of an underdog protagonist. The small-town girl, however, is completely invincible when she starts running.
She makes every win feel like a cakewalk. However, this comes across as a deterrent since it isn’t fun when we know who the winner is. To be honest, this invincibility wouldn’t have been a dealbreaker in a superficial masala entertainer with a demi-god hero, but for a film that is as grounded as Clap, it does feel alien. Every sports drama worth its salt is elevated by its background score.
However, despite Ilaiyaraaja’s name attached to the music of Clap, both the BGM and the solitary song in the film are abysmally ordinary. It feels unreal to realise that the man who gave us Mouna Ragam, Punnagai Mannan and Karagattakkaran also worked in Clap.
Invested performances from most of the principal cast make up for the laid-back pacing and predictability of the screenplay. Aadhi delivers his career-best performance as Kathir. Whenever he screams with pain or squirms out of helplessness, we understand that hurt. Aakansha, who was completely out of sorts in her recent Tamil debut Veerapandiyapuram, is perfectly in-sync with her role, proving that an invested creator can bring in a lot of difference. But it was shocking to see the ever-reliable Nassar ham his way through a role that can very well be considered his easiest paycheck.
The formula to make a successful sports drama is to make the audience root for its protagonist with all their heart. But the emotional investment we have with Kathir is clearly missing when it comes to Bhagyalakshmi. Had Prithvi Adithya bridged this gap, this Clap would have reverberated louder and longer in our hearts.
- Director: Prithvi Adhithya
- Cast: Aadhi, Krisha Kurup, Aakansha Singh, Munishkanth
- Streaming on: SonyLIV
- Rating: 2.5/5