Director Shubham Yogi’s first feature film ‘Kacchey Limbu’ premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival with a warm introduction. The movie was presented as a fun, deeply satisfying watch emerging from the pandemic. After seeing the crowd beaming at the end of the screening, it’s hard not to agree.
Akash (Rajat Barmecha) is a viral sensation, a tournament champion, and the best cricketer in the neighbourhood. He has his eyes set on playing for the Indian cricket team, and no amount of corporate interviews set up by his father will come in his way. His younger sister Ditti (Radhika Madan) is not as focused in life. She doesn’t have a dream to achieve or a big calling to follow. So she does what she is told: Bharatnatyam for her mother, medical entrance exams for her father, fashion design for her friends. But nothing fires her up like her attachment with cricket.
Akash finally gets his big break… sort of. It isn’t an opportunity to play at Lords stadium, but a chance to be the face of the new underarm cricket league that may be formed in a year or so. His family, understandably, is not super keen on him putting all his eggs in an unwoven basket. Akash angrily declares, if Ditti can put herself in his shoes and form a team against him in the local tournament, he will openly explore the corporate route everyone is so desperate for him to pursue. Ditti eagerly accepts.
Now if you think this is a dramatic sports movie, you’re wrong. ‘Kacchey Limbu’ is about sibling rivalry, a feud much bigger than a bat and a ball. In fact, the film rarely looks at cricket seriously. The matches are filled with hilarious commentary and witty heckling. The atmosphere of the game is playful, cocky, communal. There is no spectacle around Ditti playing gully cricket either, other than the laughs at the expense of her sexist ex-boyfriend (well played by Paras Priyadarshan). The central conflict in ‘Kacchey Limbu’ is proving your sibling wrong, even if at the end you realize that they were right all along. If it sounds silly to you, then congratulations on being an only child.
This sibling dynamic is written so well in ‘Kacchey Limbu’. Ditti and Akash can’t stand each other, but always have each other’s backs. They push each other to be better, to widen their horizons, to do things they stubbornly refuse to do otherwise. Madan and Barmecha are so good at portraying the petty tension between siblings, and the hidden respect and affection behind it. They, along with the rest of the cast, have incredible chemistry, which feels very fresh and natural. So it is a little disappointing to see that the supporting characters are quite underwritten. Ayush Mehra is so charming as Kabir, but the character lacks a pivotal moment, or a major growth arc. The rest of Ditti’s team are just two-dimensional quirky underdogs, who serve as the punchline to a very funny ‘Lagaan’ reference but not much more.
The biggest win of ‘Kacchey Limbu’ is that it has so much heart radiating from every scene. The film presents cricket the way it exists beyond the stadium. It emulates the intense, competitive fun of the rowdy crew that appears in the neighbourhood every evening, carrying more snark than sports equipment. Anchoring it with a compelling story about two siblings balancing their dreams with their parents’ expectations, Shubham Yogi has made a light, hilarious, feel-good entertainer that is sure to put a smile on your face. ‘Kacchey Limbu’ marks a first-class debut worth celebrating.