The announcement of the Kollywood film 800 sparked immense interest, primarily because it promised to bring to life the inspiring journey of the legendary Sri Lankan cricketer, Muthiah Muralitharan. His remarkable transformation from facing numerous trials and tribulations in both his personal and professional life to becoming the leading wicket-taker in the world of cricket captivated the imagination of people.
The film generated even more curiosity when the makers successfully cast the talented Makkal Selvan, Vijay Sethupathi, in the lead role. Vijay Sethupathi's involvement in the project heightened anticipation and expectations.
However, a controversy arose surrounding Muralitharan's remarks concerning Tamilians in Sri Lanka, leading to Vijay Sethupathi stepping down from the film. Despite this setback, the film continued its journey, now starring Madhur Mittal and under the direction of Sripathy.
"800" is set to hit the screens in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi on October 6th, and the excitement among cricket and movie enthusiasts reached new heights when the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar himself unveiled the film's trailer. This endorsement by the Cricket God further amplified the film's intrigue and interest among audiences.
As the release date approaches, movie lovers are eager to discover what "800" has to offer, hoping to witness the inspiring and extraordinary story of Muthiah Muralitharan's life unfold on the big screen.
800 is the compelling narrative revolves around the journey of a determined young man named Muralitharan, who battles against adversities to carve out a remarkable legacy as a cricketing sensation. Muralitharan, portrayed by Madhur Mittal, embarks on a life-altering journey when he relocates to Sri Lanka with his parents in pursuit of a brighter future.
While his passion for cricket ignites, the nation's internal turmoil stemming from the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict casts a daunting shadow over his aspirations. Amidst this backdrop, Muralitharan's path to becoming a renowned off-spinner is fraught with challenges, including political interference and discrimination within the Sri Lankan cricket team.
As the pressure mounts, Muralitharan teeters on the brink of abandoning his cricketing dreams in favor of pursuing higher education abroad. The pivotal decision he makes, and the roles played by key figures like Sri Lankan Captain Arjuna Ranatunga (portrayed by King Ratnam), Madhimalar (brought to life by Mahima Nambiar), a tenacious sports journalist (played by Nassar), and others, shape the captivating twists and turns that define the remainder of this gripping tale.
Madhur Mittal's portrayal of Muralitharan was nothing short of exceptional, as he brought the character to life with impeccable precision. His mastery of expressions and emotions, coupled with near-flawless body language, made his performance truly remarkable. Mittal skillfully showcased a range of emotions, effectively conveying Muralitharan's struggles, pain, and his intense frustration and anger when confronted with the allegations of being a "chucker."
Among the supporting cast, Nassar, Vela Ramamurthy, and King Ratnam delivered commendable performances in their respective roles as the journalist, father, and Sri Lankan captain Ranatunga. Although Mahima Nambiar had a limited role as Muralitharan's wife, she made the most of her screen time with a noteworthy portrayal.
800 is a collaborative effort between Sripathy and Shehan Karunatilaka, with Sripathy commencing the narration as Muralitharan teeters on the precipice of achieving a remarkable milestone—800 wickets, the highest in the world. The film delves into Muralitharan's arduous journey, with Nassar taking over the narrative reins to share his struggles.
The story, screenplay, and direction of 800 tread the familiar path of a biopic, akin to films like MS Dhoni: The Untold Story,83, or Azhar. However, it distinguishes itself through its unique subject—a Sri Lankan cricketer. True to Muralitharan's assertion that the film would unveil the lesser-known aspects of his personal life, Sripathy diligently explores Murali's tumultuous childhood, intertwined with the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict, the war-ridden backdrop of Sri Lanka, and the initial discrimination he faced in his cricketing career.
The first half of the film brims with emotion, particularly as Muralitharan grapples with being labeled a "chucker" by teams like Australia and England, prompting other nations to follow suit. While Sripathy adeptly weaves cricket and politics together, the narrative is hindered by predictability.
The second half predominantly revolves around Muralitharan's relentless struggle to prove his innocence, resulting in repetitive scenes. Regrettably, the film overlooks Murali's rivalry with contemporaneous spinners such as Saqlain Mushtaq and Shane Warne. Moreover, it neglects to include matches involving Sri Lanka and India, despite showing Indian tailenders striving to thwart Murali's pursuit of his milestone wicket.
Throughout the film, numerous scenes underscore the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict, illustrating Muralitharan's debates with LTTE chief Prabhakaran concerning war and peace. The poignant dialogue encapsulating Murali's weariness from constantly having to prove himself right resonates as a powerful reflection of the fate that "800" ultimately portrays.
Gibhran's background score in 800 is both soothing and soul-stirring, adding a layer of depth to the emotional landscape of the film. His music masterfully enhances the overall impact of the narrative.
RD. Rajasekhar's cinematography shines with its natural and realistic portrayal of Sri Lanka's picturesque locations. His lens captures the essence of the country remarkably well, providing a genuine backdrop for the story's unfolding.
However, the film loses some of its audience engagement when depicting international cricket matches played by Sri Lanka against various countries. These sequences lack the grandeur and excitement that one expects from such pivotal moments. Instead, they appear somewhat lackluster, resembling more of club-level matches than the high-stakes international games they are meant to represent.
Praveen KL's editing is competent but leaves room for improvement, especially in terms of addressing the repetitive scenes that slow down the pacing of the film.
While the dialogues are serviceable, they don't stand out as exceptional. Nevertheless, the production values from Movie Train Motion Pictures remain commendable, contributing to the overall quality of the production.
Altogether, 800 as a whole serves as a poignant portrayal of cricketer Muralitharan's arduous journey from obscurity to stardom. Sripathy's vision extends beyond merely showcasing Muralitharan's cricketing achievements, as he delves into the human aspects of his life. This is exemplified through Muralitharan's role as a UN Ambassador, seen in his efforts to deliver relief items to LTTE-controlled areas and his impassioned discussions with LTTE chief Prabhakaran. The film handles the complex Sinhalese and Tamil conflict with a balanced touch. Despite these commendable efforts, the screenplay and direction tend to follow a predictable trajectory.
Some fine-tuning of the script and perhaps a star actor in the lead role could have elevated the film to greater heights. This is not to diminish the performance of Madhur Mittal, who delivers a compelling portrayal. Taking all these factors into account, Cinejosh awards 800 with a rating of 2.5.