Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chak De! India

Chak De India
Released: 10 August 2007Director: Shimit AminProducer: Aditya ChopraCast: Shahrukh Khan, Sagarika Ghatge, Chitrashi Rawat, Shilpa Shukla, Vidya Malavade, Tanya Abrol, Anaitha Nair, Shubhi Mehta, Seema Azmi, Nisha Nair, Sandia Furtado, Arya Menon Masochon and Zimik Kimi LaldawlaRunning time: 2.5 hours
Chak De: Well Done
Defamed coach Kabir Khan’s motley crew of girls clinching the hockey world cup was a sweet tribute to India on her sixtieth birthday. And in case you thought I messed up the intro sentence, you stand corrected. Indeed, it is a film on our national sport hockey and well just this once; it is Kabir Khan and not the eponymous ‘Badshah of Bollywood’ who holds the film together. The Shah Rukh Khan persona does not overbear the film and that is what makes it one of Shah Rukh’s best films till date. Speculation is rife that this film must salvage the sinking Yash Raj ship post the debacle of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and the average Ta Ra Rum Pum. Whether that happens only time will tell but what I can tell is that this is an out and out Bollywood commercial flick, which still manages to keep you craving for more.
What holds the film together is it’s tight screenplay and a predictable script. Yes you heard it right, a predictable script, yet a realistic one. There is no melodrama or slow build up to the action. Yash Raj even keeps the songs for the promos. And there is no time wasted visiting the past lives of the girls, their trials and tribulations, which would have been just the fodder for an Ektaa Kapoor or K Jo. What matters here is for the rag tag bunch of girls to win the World Cup for which they must play as a team. And that is precisely where the problem lies. The machinations of the minister have been subdued. But what will stop Komal Chautala and Preeti Sabhrawal from bickering, what will cool fiery Balbir Kaur or what will make the most experienced player, Bindia Nayak yield to her coach. And since the cast is so fresh and identifiable, and does not show an iota of awe for the Shah Rukh Khan persona, the film strikes a chord.
And then this becomes a Kabir Khan film. The person who served as the inspiration to Khan’s character in the film has confessed in television interviews to being involved with it. And Shah Rukh seems to have taken advantage of this. He essays his role effortlessly and for once looks convincing even when he’s not romancing a teary-eyed heroine or bickering with her. And to get back to the script, it is real precisely because it has its roots in living, kicking characters. And it is predictable because of the tried and tested reality gimmicks employed umpteen times by our scriptwriters: the team losing the first match to win all the others in the series, a strong team overpowered by experience and just winning by a hair’s breadth.
And just if you thought that I was going gaga over the film, well, I have my set of quarrels. For like all Bollywood flicks, the film succumbs to cultural stereotypes: the crafty bania, the foolish sardar. Here, this becomes most apparent in the portrayal of the girls like the hot headed Punjabi lass Balbir Kaur, the slit-eyed North-Easterners Molly Zimik and Mary Ralte (who sport trendy clothes and are welcomed as guests in their own country), the Telugu girl Nethra Reddy (who made a point about Southern languages and cultures enough to send this theatre in Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, where I watched the film, into a tizzy) and Soi Moi from Jharkhand who can only mouth ‘Thank You’ and ‘Happy Diwali’ in English. Come on Mr. Shimit Amin, we can leave slotting people behind, right? After all we are in the 21st century where even foxes are not so sly dude!
Nevertheless, the film holds together rather well without being overly dramatic or loudly patriotic like Lagaan or Gadar. And after all, let us not forget that this is also a Bollywood flick, and close on the heels of Aap Ka Suroor: The Moviee, The Real Luv Story, these matters do seem trivial. It does make a point or two about sportswomen getting married, balancing their marriages and sports, jealousies within the sports fraternity and the attitude of our ministers towards women’s sports. And does all this without seeming didactic and going over the top. On the whole, the running time of the film (barely 2.5 hours) is precious time spent well. And the aptly-timed release, will only ensure it sets the box office ringing. Kudos to Chak De and its team! The match is well-played and the trophy and laurels well-deserved

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