Sunday, November 25, 2007


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 145 Minutes
Release Date : 23rd Nov ‘07
Director : Vivek Agnihotri ; Writer : Rohit Malhotra ; Music : Pritam
Starring : John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Bipasha Basu

Let me begin with the obvious. Goal is not Chak De, it has a different theme (racism in Goal vs redemption in Chak De) and tries to be more emotional, though both did definitely choose a sport (football and hockey respectively) as their central thread.

Goal is about English football – about a club named Southall United. Southall, in case you didn’t know it, is a real-life small area in London where the joke goes that ‘Englishmen need a visa to enter Southall’. Its dominated by Sikhs and other Asians and is the closest place to India you’re likely to find in UK. The football club though, is near the bottom of the league, also near bankruptcy and under pressure from the city council to vacate the ground, needing a miracle to stay alive. Its captain, Arshad Warsi, decides to get a coach and the only one he can think of is an ex-Southall football player Tony Singh, who has now fallen on bad days. However, after not much persuasion, he begins coaching the motley crew which form the team and then brings in a star striker, a British born desi, John Abraham, who’s dreams of playing for a better, bigger, whiter football club are shattered by some racism. John has never got along with the typically ethnic Southall crowd and this spills over into the field as well. For additional spice add Bipasha Basu in a very sidey role as a physio to the team, and Dilip Tahil in an equally sidey role as the traitor, helping the English to ensure Southall doesn’t win and there you have in a nutshell the plot of the movie.

Goal is an ok movie, not even nice, just ok. I found a lot of things mediocre in it –the plot (full of holes, the team didn't look close to a football team and that really stretched credibility, some inexplicable relationships including John and his father), the dialogues (very unnatural / heavy, incidentally by Anurag Kashyap, director of Black Friday and No Smoking), the football action (quite clumsy / leaden, especially the last match, choreographed by an ex-English League footballer Andrew Owasu Ansah), the songs (forced in terms of situations and the quality), the humour (none of the jokes really made you laugh, very few even made you chuckle) and even the characters (too many stereotypes, including the large hearted Sardar, the evil English, the captain with the heart of gold etc - no real depth to any of them).

I appreciated the racism angle - I've faced some as well during my years abroad - and its good to make it clear to the Indian public that its not all rosy abroad. However, seriously, how worked up can you get about Southall United winning or losing ? Despite all the rah rah about how its not just about the club but about where we are from accompanied by abundant visuals of the tricolour, the Bangladeshi flag etc, its far less fun vs watching / cheering for the Indian team and none of the characters are built up sufficiently to make you really care.

I think every movie with even a touch of sport in its theme is going to now suffer in comparisons with Chak De. Even the normally unbiased Wikipedia couldn’t resist a line saying ‘Goal is the second sport based movie to be released in 2007 after Chak De’. The sheer adrenalin of the football is actually what saves the movie from being a disaster, along with some decent performances by some of the cast and a catchy title song.

I can compare Goal to two movies. One is 'Bend it Like Beckham' - which is also about sports and Southall (to a great degree) and Goal pales in comparison, especially in terms of freshness and sheer exuberance. The second, another movie which deals with the twin topics of racism and sport, – is Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington amongst others…watch that one if you really want to see how such topics should be dealt with ! Agar aapne us picture mein Titans ke liye naa cheer kara, to mera naam badal dena ! I wish Vivek Agnihotri (director) and Rohit Malhotra (writer) had gone to the trouble of painting some of the characters / the debates / the choices and even the sport strategies as vividly in Goal as this one. Then I would've cheered with a lot more emotion for Southall United !

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