Yet another Indian Original has debuted on Netflix and is based on Aravind Adiga’s eponymous novel. A Booker prize winner, cricket and Netflix, sounds like a match made in Indian binge-heaven. I haven’t read Adiga’s work and knew little of the book when I slouched on the couch and decided to netflix (v) the other day. For a nation obsessed with anything related to cricket, it’s a bit surprising that we do not have as many movies or shows based on this favorite sport of ours as we would have liked to have had. I mean, considering the number of movies that the Americans have made on Baseball and Football and Basketball and Boxing, we pale in comparsion given the fact that we are equally obsessed with the showbiz too. If I must name one, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal is the only film that did justice to the true spirit of the game I feel.
Selection Day chronicles the lives of two young boys from a village in Madhya Pradhesh, who are groomed by their father to be the best batsmen cricket has ever seen. Rajesh Tailang plays the father and you see him telling another character early on that he married the mother of his children because she was a star hockey player who could mother champion sons for him. Grooming is a subtle word, considering his obsession with the cause and that being the Under- 16 selections for Mumbai. The show starts with him moving the kids to Mumbai as the day edges closer. Yash Doyle and Mohammad Samad play the champions to be. Samad was seen in the rage of the season, Tumbaad recently and is one actor to watch out for. Karanvir Malhotra is another new face. Mahesh Manjrekar reinvents himself as the reluctant coach Tommy Sir. Giving him company is television and stage veteran Ratna Pathak Shah. Shiv Pandit appears and disappears, literally. Akshay Oberoi plays an industrialist chasing dreams of a different kind. Making an impression in a couple of scenes as “Gulshan” is Dibyendu Battacharya and something tells me we are going to see more of him in the industry. The strength of the show is perfect casting and earnest performances from these actors with some great writing to help them do that too. I have to read the book before Season 2 comes out to tell you if it’s Adiga or the writers who have done the work here.
Much like the T20 version of cricket that’s being marketed by cricket boards these days, Selection Day too keeps the episodes short, this helps when you binge on a regular weekend. In fact the whole running time is lesser than that of a Bollywood film. But that doesn’t take away any of the fun or the charm of the series. I think it’s safe to call it the Malgudi Days of our times. You’d infact find yourself wanting Selection Day to return faster than you want Sacred Games to. Adiga’s writing has been branded Dickensian by critics I’m told and Selection Day is no different from what I have witnessed. Udayan Prasad, the director has done a fine job of translating Adiga’s vision on to the screen. I’m divided now though, like a batsman eyeing the fielder and looking for that second run. I could wait for Season 2 to find out the fate of the characters or I could go get the book off the closest shelf and something tells me I’m not the only one in that predicament.