In the clamorous clutter of releases this week, Cycle Kick stands out for being the least fashionable/trendy and the most original. Yes, it has its flaws - it is excessively syrupy in places and often amateurish in parts. But the sum-total of the components adds up to a heartwarming take on coming-of-age in the back of the beyond.
In fact, the qualities of mawkishness and over-simplification only add to the film's simplicity of purpose and transparency of presentation.
Debutant director Shashi Sudigada transports us into the world of the young in a sleepy scenic seaside town. Unlike the hip boys and girls in some other recent young-is-fun films where the students seem to belong to Archies comic books rather than real life, the protagonists in Cycle Kick crave for the simple pleasures of life.
That one glimpse of the girl from the window, that stolen hug with your adorable little sibling (there are two such moments squeezed into the baggy narration), and a ride on the bicycle through the dusty lanes.
The bicycle acquires a strange life of its own. It's almost like the hero beyond the human. In its recreation of world of simple pleasures of the young and the confused, Cycle Kick echoes Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves.
There is a bedrock of sincerity in the presentation carried to some depths of lucidity by the fabulous locations and the spirit of kinship, camaraderie and sportsmanship that runs in a soporific trickle through the quaint film, like a stream that isn't really bothered about where it is heading.
The supple screenplay centres on a stolen bicycle and the two protagonists Ramu(Malayalam actor Nishan) and Ali (Sunny Hinduja) who claim a mutual ownership of the in-demand bicycle.
Parts of the films's romantic tracks and the rivalry between the low-income school and the 'high' school recall Mansoor Ali Khan's Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. These faint echoes do not take away from the film's positive energy, its artless candour and its penchant for a state of equanimity in the narration that strives to achieve neither an under nor an over statement.
Shot in the tranquil seaside town of Sindhugarh in coastal Maharashtra, the virgin locations lend a sun-kissed freshness to the goings-on, as does the cast.
Nishan as the cycling dreamer, protective elder brother and love-stuck Romeo brings an endearing sincerity to the proceedings. His relationship with his kid-brother (Dwij Yadav) underlines the film's most precious moments. The man-to-man talk between the siblings on women makes you smile.
An undercurrent of naivete characterizes the film. Some of the cast is rather stiff before the camera. But there is that fine veteran actor Tom Alter effortlessly making a space for himself as the football coach, echoing Naseeruddin Shah's role in Nagesh Kukunoor's Iqbal.
Indeed it won't be erroneous to describe Cycle Kick as a successor to Iqbal. This film carries a heavy hangover of the earlier film. But does so with grace and honesty.
Cycle Kick is not quite the kick-in-the-groin take on the non-urban youth's aspirations that Iqbal so successfully happened to be. But it has its heart in the right place. And it doesn't puts its foot in its mouth.