Saturday, August 11, 2007
Hollywood has had its fair share of sport themed films from Escape of Victory, Chariots of Fire, A League of their own to The Longest Yard, Coach Carter and Any Given Sunday. But same was never the case in our country. Of course there was Iqbal and partly the period piece Lagaan (which cashed in on cricket) but then these two dealt with cricket, which is nothing short of a national sensation.
To attempt a film on hockey which is heavily ignored in spite of being the national sport of India and to be precise women's hockey here, and then to present it with conviction, courage and realism on screen is not all that easy. The Yash Raj banner has teamed up with one of their favourite actors Shah Rukh Khan, not for another romantic musical hit but for this off beat movie, thereby proving that they are open to experimentation and tests. Here director Shimit Amin's contributions have come handy in a big way. He has the track record of making a realistic film like Ab Tak Chhappan and his own unique touch is there throughout the film.
Shah Rukh plays Kabir Khan, a dedicated Indian hockey player, whose one mistake of missing out on a vital penalty shot in a final world cup match against Pakistan costs him his career and his honour. He is accused of being a traitor and is forced out of the game. He emerges seven years later, asking for an opportunity to coach the Indian female hockey team, which in actuality is not a team but a group of scattered aimless girls, who are in the game just for the sake of it. Nobody is willing to give them and the team any attention. From there on begins the fight of Kabir, how he instills team spirit, dedication and love for the game in the girls and transforms them into world champions capable of performing miracles.
Shah Rukh Khan has moved away from his typical image yet again after Swades. He breathes life into the character and fits the role to a t. It's a treat to watch the Baadshah do something so drastically different, in the process successfully convincing the viewers. The perfect casting in the film is a big plus point, without which the film would have never looked real. The girls essaying the roles of hockey players from various states are ideally cast and play their parts well.
Vidya Malvade is the only known face here, thanks to her modeling background and her debut film Inteha. She doesn't disappoint but there are others who get equal attention too. Especially Sagarika Ghatge who plays Preeti Sabharwal and the girls playing the political Vindya, the 'Punjabi kudi' Balbir and the pint sized Haryani tom boy (the latter two make more of an impact because of the comic scenes involved).
The hockey matches have been filmed on a grand scale in Australia and look very authentic and commendable (which is not very usual in Hindi cinema).
Writer Jaideep Sahni proves his mettle yet again after films like Company and Khosla Ka Ghosla. Though his story and screen play has some typical filmi moments (can't really do without in a Bollywood film) it's quite convincing. Another good thing is that the film is not too long, just about two hours or so. The dialogues are pretty good and the girls talking in their various languages and accents make the situations genuine. Music is alright and understandably so since there is not much requirement of the same here.
Chak De India is a sincere effort and it is really nice to see such well-made experimental films being tried. One hitch could be the film might not appeal to the lovers of typical Bollywood masala potboilers and can remained confined in the niche audience category, being appreciated by people who have it in them to praise such novel efforts..