Filming in the pool is indeed a brave decision in India. Then playing the title role at the age of 15 is crazy crazy. But Toolsidas Jr. does both and leaves unscathed. Rajiv Kapoor was the first film to come to the screen 30 years later. And then, after his untimely death, it gained emotional significance for his final performance. But minus this, Toolsidas gets a chord. It is a well-made clean film that mixes the thrill of sport with the softness of human emotions. Also Read: Tooledas Junior Trailer: Sanjay Dutt is the snooker coach in Rajiv Kapoor’s final film. View
Toolsidas Jr. is the story of a teenager (Varun Buddhadev) who has seen his father Toolsidas (Rajeev Kapoor) try and win the Calcutta Club Snooker Championship many times. His enemy is the champion of champions, the seemingly unbeatable Jimmy Tandon (Dulip Tahill). In the end, he decides to take matters into his own hands and a cue stick and sets out to win the trophy for his father. Helping him in this goal is the now-defunct former national champion, Mohammed Salam (Sanjay Dutt).
The hallmark of any good sports movie is that it should not be too much about the sport. Even if you do not follow the sport in question, one will be able to enjoy it (see for example Lagan, Queen’s Gambit, Chak De India, or Dangal). And that’s where Toolsidas Jr. succeeds. Even if you don’t know your billiards from your pool, you’ll be able to follow and enjoy the movie. Because in the end, the story is not about the sport. It is about the bond between father and son; It’s about a dedicated boy who’s trying to make his father proud; And it’s about the battered ex-pro looking for redemption in his ashtray. These universal emotions drive the story forward. Then the sport becomes casual. The story wastes no time in introducing us to the intricacies and rules of the game, and for that I am grateful.
You have never seen a Toolcidas Jr. in Bollywood other than the fact that it brings snooker. It is a simple story, told with no decorations. But it manages to stay fresh by clearing stereotypes and tropes. The characters are well rounded, the writing is crisp, the dialogue is spontaneous, and the performance is measured. It is predictable but never boring. It reinforces the belief that simple stories can be told well.
The film features a healthy dose of 90s nostalgia, ranging from the delicate Campa Cola product placement to casting Dilip Tahil in a negative role. Sanjay Dutt’s Salam Bhai act evokes his 90s big brother figure.
Sensitivity is the power of image. No melodrama, no hassle, scream or Machiavellian scheme from the bad guy. The drama does exist but it remains minimal and delicious. Toolsidas Jr. has managed to deliver some life lessons through the sport, which requires no role to make a big speech about. The film manages to touch sensitive topics such as alcoholism without sermon. The biggest lesson it offers is that in life, it’s not always about winning or losing, but enjoying the game. A poignant message for the times we are in.
Rajiv Kapoor makes a credible comeback and it is painful to think that we will never see him again on screen. But then again, this is a perfect swan song in a way. Actor Shammi Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor remind him when he transitioned into role roles. They may not match the acting skills or star power of their more well-known family members, but they compensate for it by performing a floor that never goes up. They bring out the flaws of Toolcidas and still like it. Sanjay Dutt also plays a supporting role. But in the end, the film rests on the tiny shoulders of young Varun Buddhadev, who plays the titular character. Teenagers carry the picture effortlessly. He may still be a little rough but boy can he act. And his co-stars – Rajiv and Sanjay in particular – support his performance and make sure he doesn’t overdo it.
Dilip Tahil as the terrific, snooty Jimmy Tandon is a joy to watch and reminds you why he was one of the many filmmakers’ favorite villains at one point.
In the Epilogue, you understand that the film is based on a true story, which is itself the writer-director Mridul Mahendra’s (in the last credits he is credited as Mridul Toolsidas). And that makes the story more relatable, more personal. Toolsidas Jr. is a fun, touching movie that definitely deserves your two hours.
Toolsidas Jr. had its World Television premiere on Sony Max on May 21 and began streaming on Netflix starting Monday, May 23, 2022.