Go for gold

YUP, THERE'S plenty of hockey but nope, you don't get bored even if you are not a fan. Never mind if you don't know a thing about offside passes, penalty strokes or man-to-man marking. Yes, Chak De India is all about hockey....

By Sudha Mukerjee (Film review)

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Published: Mon 13 Aug 2007, 10:35 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:53 PM

but it's essentially about the triumph of the underdogs who win against overwhelming odds. An elegantly written, grittily narrated sports-based movie is always a pleasure to watch. Didn't we cheer and clap when the little guys triumphed in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Lagaan and Iqbal? Chak De India joins this small but select group of films that weaves an inspirational plot around a sport and in fact, it goes a step further.

This time round it's about that long-neglected matter of women's sports. It's pro patriotism and feminism, anti parochialism, chauvinism and classism but if you think that's too many isms to handle all at once, that's not the case.

Cheers to producer Aditya Chopra, director Shimit Amin and writer Jaideep Sahni for pulling off with aplomb an enterprise that celebrates a sport unfortunately given second class status by a nation obsessed with cricket.

On the other hand, if hockey coaches looked like Kabir Khan (the King himself) there'll probably be a stampede to play the game.

But his designer stubble and muscular frame cut no ice with a team of 16 young women from different nooks of the country.

Khan, disgraced seven years ago and fighting his own demons, takes on the thankless task of coaching Team India to play at the World Cup. The women love the game but seem more interested in petty arguments, bullying and sundry unsportsmanlike activities.

As for team spirit, what's that? Clearly Kabir Khan has his work cut out if he is to lead this team to victory in Australia.

Now we all know how this saga will end but it's how we get there that's all the fun. Gratifyingly, we care about the characters (sincere and spunky) and can't help but root for this ragtag team. Refreshingly, there are no elaborate costumes, no high tech stunts and not an item number in sight. Nor a whiff of romance. If it had been a run of the mill Bollywood flick, the character of the matronly assistant coach (called Krishnaji) would have been turned into a sultry siren who could cavort with the hero! Yet, it works.

It's a super-restrained, super duper performance from the superstar this time. Shah Rukh Khan is in fine fettle and holds the film together with tremendous ease. Splendid performances too from some of the girls, especially Chitrashi Rawat (tiny, feisty Komal), Tanya Abrol (Balbir, who needs a course in anger management) and Shilpa Shukla (Bindia the bully). Vidya Malwade, as the captain of the team, was for some reason touted in the media as the heroine of the film. She isn't, and it's just an average performance.

On a lighter note, we girls have actually got ourselves a feel-good chick flick. Can any of the fairer sex resist the sight of a group of girls thrashing a bunch of pesky tormentors, putting chauvinistic men in their place or simply listening to men extol the virtues of women? Well, it's all here, and it's supremely easy on the female eye. In these days of rampant infanticide, foeticide and anti-women-cide, it's a welcome change.

Said to be based on the life of Mir Ranjan Negi (the Indian goalie who was blamed for India's defeat in the 1982 Asian Games and subsequently went on to lead the women's team to victory at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002), Chak De India bursts with energy, emotion and humour. Wonderful dialogues too. And even though the background score tends to intrude at times, the matches are pulsatingly picturised.

The heartwarming tricolours of patriotism await you at the box office this week, just in time for India's Independence Day. Go Shah Rukh. Oops, go India!

A commentary on sexism in India: NYT

THE GREATEST merit of the new Shah Rukh Khan starrer Chak De! India, now running across the US, "is its commentary on sexism in India", says the New York Times.

"The director, Shimit Amin, strikes a buoyant, propulsive tone, replacing the customary Bollywood production numbers with exhilarating musical montages of team practice," says the leading American mainline daily in a 400-word review Sunday by Andy Webster.

"In fact, the film's greatest merit is its commentary on sexism in India. As it should, 'Chak De! India' gives the women, in the closing credits, the last word," he says in a review titled "Chak De! India' - 'You Go, Girl,' as Translated into Hindi".

"For his part, Khan, to his credit, lets his co-stars' youthful charisma carry the movie. He also laudably portrays a man who vigorously and unabashedly advocates the advancement of women."

Webster says, "The making-of-a-team sports movie is a timeworn genre, and yet 'Chak De! India' ('Go, India!') finds new variations. Though the game here is field hockey, those fondly recalling the United States soccer team's first-place finish in the 1991 Women's World Cup will find a lot to like.

"Of course, there are conventions", he says giving a longish synopsis of the film noting "the assured Bollywood veteran Shahrukh Khan" takes the role of "a former player for India's national field hockey team who missed a fateful play against Pakistan, costing a championship and making him a pariah".

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