I had watched a trailer of “Toolsidas Junior” a couple of months ago, anticipated it, and then completely forgotten about it until its recent release on Netflix. Written and directed by Mridul Mahendra, the Hindi-language sports drama could be the only Indian biopic ever made on a snooker player.
Toolsidas (Rajiv Kapoor) is a champion snooker player in the 90’s Kolkata, India. He is also a middle class family man living with his wife (Tasveer Kamil) and sons Goti (Chinmai Chandranshuh) and Midi (Varun Buddhadev). One of Toolsidas’ most coveted life goals is winning the Calcutta Club Snooker Championship, something he has never done, perhaps due to his drinking habit.
In the 1994 tournament, Toolsidas makes it to the final of the championship. But then he is tricked into drinking before the final match by the multi-time winner Jimmy Tandon (Dalip Tahil). Toolsidas loses his focus and cops a massive defeat at Jimmy’s hands.
Watching the game in the audience, his youngest son Midi vows to put up his father’s name on the board of winners someday. Thus begins the 13-year-old’s journey of learning and mastering the game to beat the city’s bigwigs. In the process, Midi also connects to local legend Mohammed Salaam (Sanjay Dutt), a former champion, who coaches him to perfection.
Toolsidas Junior is a heartwarming family drama that is likely targeted at younger audiences. I say younger audiences because the film retains this innocence—both in the storyline and production—throughout. Although based on a true story, Toolsidas is not a detailed biopic like, say, “Mary Kom” (2014) or “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (2013). The timeline is much shorter and instead of only glorifying the protagonist, the film focuses more on the coming-of-age of the main characters.
The film features one of the biggest names in Bollywood—but it is not Sanjay Dutt’s film. Neither does it belong to the late Rajiv Kapoor—a member of the famous Kapoor family—who makes his final and posthumous film appearance. Although senior actors contribute to the film’s likability with their skills and experience, it is the younger ones who steal the show.
Varun Buddhadev as the young Midi is obviously the center of attraction. The young actor’s character transitions from a noob to a champion within the film and as audience, we can see his growth and empathize with him. Midi is innocent yet bright, a teenager yet mature where he needs to be.
Accompanying Midi onscreen is Chinmai Chandranshuh as his elder brother Goti. In his late teens, Goti is the hustler in the family. He knows what’s happening in his surroundings more than Midi and is sometimes a kind of bridge between Midi and the rest of the world. While he is a caring elder brother, Goti can’t help burdening the younger one with expectations. Although quite young, Chandranshuh is an experienced actor with almost half a dozen roles under his belt and this shows in Toolsidas Junior as he teams up with Buddhadev to create heartwarming situations and at times to provide comic reliefs.
But the 2hrs 12mins screen time does feel stretched for a plot that does not require much explanation and backstories.
One can also feel that the departure of Rajiv Kapoor before completing the shooting has had some effect in the film’s storyline. Yet the story could still have been handled better, especially considering that the film’s writer and director—Mridul Mahendra—is the actual Midi and the film is about him and his family.
Who should watch it?
Although Toolsidas Junior feels as if it has been made for youngsters, it is a heartwarming, feel-good movie that can be enjoyed by everyone. With the option of skipping through the boring bits on Netflix, you can surely start watching it.
Genre: Sports drama
Rating: 3.5 stars
Actors: Rajiv Kapoor, Chinmai Chandranshuh, Varun Buddhadev, Sanjay Dutt
Director: Mridul Mahendra
Run time: 2hrs 12 mins