Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chak De India

This is not a sophisticated film – its simple yet rousingly entertaining. It unabashedly cashes in in the wave of patriotism sweeping through the country, a sort of pride where we are increasingly comfortable with who / what we are rather than just blindly ape-ing the west. The movie brings you to your feet in quite a few places – but only if you’re the type who enjoys watching India win in sport, the type who can take off your shirt to celebrate a la Saurav / Freddie etc.

What makes this movie different is that it weaves its story around a rather unlikely vehicle, womens hockey, and there is more to this movie than just sport. There is a story in there about the shallowness of our tv media, its insatiable appetite for concocting news, while adhering to the worst standards of yellow journalism. There is another about the pathetic nature of the officialdom, the politicians and bureaucrats who run our sports. Yet another about the soft nature of our sportsmen, their limited ambition where they are content to become something in India rather than internationally, their inability to focus on fitness or slog it out and even their desire to be treated as superstars, whether worthy of the status or not. And, finally, it is about women – do they belong exclusively in the kitchen or is there a world beyond that ? Shouldnt they get the same attention / money / sponsorship as their more feted male counterparts ?

Shahrukh is a disgraced men’s hockey player who returns after a 7 year self-imposed exile to coach the Indian women’s hockey team. A team which is so faction ridden, that even the hockey association has no faith in them and brand them absolute no-hopers. The team itself is composed of clearly defined, stereo-typical characters, some fighting their own personal battles, whether with their parents, their in-laws or even their husbands / fiancee’s and others just there for the ride. How he gets them to become one team is the focus of the first half. The second is about what they try to achieve.

In what I think is more a commercial decision than a creative one, it’s the north Indian, hindi speaking characters who get most of the meaty parts. However, all the characters act out of their skin, matching Shahrukh every step of the way. SRK himself is refreshingly understated, saving the histrionics for only the beginning and the end. The only song is the chest thumping, energetic Chak de India, used throughout as the background music.

Its tough to really criticize this film as, despite a few logical flaws, it achieves what it promises. I liked the way the movie focused on a few of the hockey players, rather than all 16. Better to get to know a few well rather than all marginally. I liked the way most of the hockey sequences were handled and the editing of the entire film– the action and drama was gripping and you didn’t want to miss a second. I loved the way they played shamelessly to the audience, getting the desired response – for example there is a scene where SRK is shown watching someone pull up the Indian flags at a championship. When asked what he is doing, he simply says “bahut din ke baad, ek gore ko dekh raha hoon tiranga uncha karte” (after many days, I’m watching a foreigner pull up the Indian tricolour), or something to that effect. If I remember correctly, that dialogue alone got a 2 minute ovation. I also really liked the realistic scenes in the beginning, where the myriad news channels gracing the TV screens are shown for what they really are (especially in India) - rumour mongering, pompous, self-praising garbage.

Its pure adrenalin, this one. Best to watch it with a triclour draped around you, face paint applied liberally, and preferably in a group. Its flag waving, fist pumping, jingoistic, in-your-face patriotism, losing no opportunity to blow a raspberry at our opponents kind of stuff. This is the ‘you don’t win a silver, you lose a gold medal’ territory. And it was great to watch all the kids in the audience get excited, go ‘Yessss’ whenever India scored a goal. We need something like this to make sure our next generation is more assertive. We, Indians, are normally quiet people, accustomed to 'taking it' since the days of Gandhi. If this movie is a reflection of the mood of the nation, then we’re changing. Its time to give it back – and with interest.


moksh juneja said...

Thanks for the review... i am away from Mumbai in Dehradun, but with the review that you wrote. I think it is worth the watch.. will try to catch the movie on sunday here, hopefully.

Anonymous said...

Appu bhaiya i just can't express in words what i am feeling after watching this movie...its absolutely outstanding, and the way shahrukh khan has acted... the baadshah is back wid a bang!!!! All the characters like balbir, sui mui, komal, preeti they have had such an awesum impact on my mind and the first thing i did after i came out of the hall was to buy tickets for the next day's show...Great review and a wonderful review....Chak de India!!!!


Siddharth Chaudhari said...

Love your reviews! :)

Pooja Puri said...

Hi Apurv -One of the Most motivational reviews ,after reading it i feel quite patriotic .Writing this comment on Independence Day i will end up watching the movie Today-Thanks ,Pooja

Vikas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Great review - went to see it expecting it to be a flop.
Turned out to be the best Hindi movie I have seen this year and possibly in the last few years. Exceptional casting of each of the players.


Rohit Deep said...

i finally saw it after a lot of my friends said i should see it. Things i didn't like were the cliched underdog sports story with lots of logical gaps. The movie is well made, good mix of characters (liked the non so subtle swipe at cricketers ) and definitely watchable. Watched it with my daughter and both of us really liked if. Good entertainment! Thankfully delivered despite the predictable story.