A proud moment for the entire nation, when tribal children from Odisha, won a Rugby Championship with the help of a local mentor and an ambitious butter-ball coach named Paul, sounds unthinkable, but it is a true story.
‘Jungle Cry’ is based on the as-yet untold story about two coaches and 12 boys mentored by the Bhubaneswar-based Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, who had no clue about rugby, taking on the world’s toughest team on their home ground and beating them in the 2007 Under-14 Rugby World Cup, pulling off a historic win for the Jungle Cats from India.
Director Sagar Ballary took the sports biopic genre, laced it with patriotism and made a film that is substantial in terms of content. And of course, seeing Abhay Deol back in action and in his elements, is something worth anyone’s time.
An incredible and inspiring true story about 12 tribal children, who enrolled for football coaching for different reasons. For shoes, food, shelter, safety, or just to stay out of trouble, they are enrolled by Rudra (Abhay Deol) for a local football training programme. But Paul, a rugby coach from Wales, wants to train them for the world rugby championship.
After some deliberation, Rudra and Paul align their goals, but these underprivileged boys are still without shoes, equipment, and have no clue about rugby. The two coaches, fired by a lot of determination and putting in a lot of hard work, train the children in just just four months and the Jungle Cats take on the world, literally, and go on to become the Under-14 Rugby World Cup champions in Wales for 2007.
During their visit to Wales, the entire team is introduced to Roshni Thakkar, the team physiotherapist and a constant source of inspiration for the boys and Rudra. She’s played by Indian American actress and Dharma Dry Gin maker Emily Shah, a stellar discovery for Indian audiences.
The movie is not just about underdogs. It is a reassuring statement of the fact that sports can help a child overcome all odds and make a mark in life. The director did not waste time on patriotic speeches or shows of emotion, but kept the narrative simple, but the undertone is remarkably clear.
During their first tussle on the ground with beefy, athletically built Welsh youngsters, the Jungle Cats almost bailed out on the coach, but their comeback, using their abilities to the fullest, is inspiring and will definitely make the viewers misty-eyed.
It is a well-balanced, well-crafted and multi-layered emotional sports drama with a happy ending. Who wouldn’t love such a movie.
Film: Jungle Cry
Director: Sagar Ballary
Cast: Abhay Deol, Emily Shah, Atul Kumar, Julian Lewis Jones and Stewart Wright
Streaming on: Lionsgate Play
Duration: 117 minutes