Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chak De India: A pretty interesting movie

The last movie of Shahrukh Khan before this that I knew about was 'Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna', and I did not watch it. Given that it was a Karan Johar movie, it was pretty unlikely that I would have considered the movie any different from the regular emotion drama; and even though the movie was somewhat different from his usual theme, covering the topic of marital and extra-marital relationships, I could not force myself to see it.
So it was with some trepidation that I went ahead to watch Chak De India; I had already heard that it was a good movie, but most people who had seen it had told me that it was essentially about hockey and the patriotism inherent in the country winning a major tournament, and there was the fear that it would turn out to be a movie steeped in patriotism, with players being urged to play for country and honour, and getting the feel-good feeling. It was all this to some extent, but in a vastly well scripted way, something that cheered you up. And frankly, I did not expect either Yash Raj Films or Aditya Chopra to make a movie that did not have a single decent song, or a romantic liasion, and I was proved wrong.
Chak De succeeds at many levels, it takes a person with all his reasons for doing what he is doing and does not try to air-brush those reasons or cloak them under a sentimental way. It also tries to show the reality of the game and conditions, when compared against the immense money involved in something called cricket that is a national obsession. It also shows our current administrators of sports and how they are singularly unfit to run something like this, it is only when you get dedicated people to run things that you get results.
Chak De is the story of the former ace of the Indian men's team, Kabir Khan (based on an actual player, Mir Ranjan Negi), who fluffs the victory chance in the dying moments and gets stampeded out of public acclaim by the combined might of the media looking for a sensational story (how his post-game handshake with the Pakistani team was actually a proof of his sell-out) and fans willing to believe the worst from their players who lost. It comes to a stage where he is labelled a traitor and his neighbors also do not believe him even when he leaves his house.
Cut to 7 years later, the World Cup for Women's hockey is in 3 months, and the team does not have a coach, with the association not being very concerned. It is one concerned person who forces them to consider Kabir Khan (now with a beard) as the coach, but most people consider it an attempt by him to re-build his reputation (and interestingly enough, this notion is never convincingly denied by him in the movie).
So Shahrukh Khan is now the new coach of the Indian Women's Hockey team, all ready to try and take a team made up of people who have never played together as a team and who come with their own agendas, biases, and airs. For example, there is the most experienced player in the team, Bindiya Naik, who considers herself as knowing everything and superior to most, and gets shocked when the coach treats her like anybody else.
They all come in with their own stories, with family members who are uncomfortable with them doing this playing, but who have grudgingly agreed to let them attend this camp. There is a nice scene (it could have been very cheesy) where Shahrukh Khan makes them repeat their introduction till they have introduced themselves as playing for India and not their respective states. How he inculcates in them a fighting spirit, a camaraderie, and a toughness forms a major section of the movie. He succeeds to some extent, although there comes a stage when they all revolt against him, and he resigns. The scene to resolve that issue where they fight as one against some teasing boys is slightly corny, but the message was conveyed.
And then how he overcomes the various challenges, including a time when the association does not want to send them. He proposes a match between the Men's and the Women's team, where they get riled up over some comments made about their abilities. However, I consider it a master-piece where they lose the match, but are saved by the appreciation of the men's team. Finally, they are on the way, and are roundly thrashed by Australia in the 1st match, 7-0. They learn, including the Punjabi girl learning to control her temper, and eventually start making their way up and winning hearts and fans. Finally they win, which you knew was going to happen, but the skill they show and the final dropping of egos in order to go this was excellent.
The movie was overall very good, challenged by my spouse to point out some bad points, I could not mention many excellent that the film was to some extent a case of pop patriotism, and it seems a bit unrealistic to show a raw team coming together to become a world champion in 3 months. Overall, the girls impress, Shahrukh impresses, and the few other characters also fairly impress. One interesting titbit is that I don't think that Shahrukhs has ever played a Muslim in a movie before (I may be wrong, but this is my impression).

These are the girls:

Anaitha Nair, 21
On field: Aliya Bose
Position: Right Out
Jersey No. 7

Tania Abrol,21
Abohar, Punjab
On field: Balbir Kaur
Position: Full back
Jersey No. 3

Shubhi Mehta, 28
On field: Gunjan Lakhani
Position: Right HalfM
Jersey No. 4

Sagarika Ghatge, 20
On field: Preeti Sabarwal
Position:Centre forward
Jersey No. 9

Arya Menon, 19
On field: Gul Iqbal
Position: Left
Jersey No. 10

Seema Azmi, 30
Azamgarh, UP
On field: Rani Dispotta
Position: Right Defender
Jersey No. 2

Vidya Malvade, 32
On field: Vidya Sharma
Position: Goalie and Captain
Jersey No. 18

Kimberly Miranda, 21
On field: Rachna Prasad
Position: Utility Player (one who can play any position)
Jersey No. 14

Nichola Sequeira, 17
On field: Nichola
Position: Bench and also a Utility player
Jersey No. 12

Raynia Mascarenhas, 21
Played: Raynia
Position: Utility player
Jersey No.16

Nisha Nair, 20
On field: Soi Moi
Position: Defence
Jersey No. 17

Lalhming Kimi, 20
On field: Mary
Position: Defender

Sandia Furtado, 20
On Field: Nethra Reddy
Position: Left Out
Jersey No. 11

Chonchon Zimik, 24
On field: Molly
Position: Left Half (back)
Jersey No. 6

Chitrashi Rawat, 17
Dehra Dun
On field: Komal Chautala
Position: Right In
Jersey No. 8

Shilpa Shukla, 26
On field: Bindiya Naik
Position: Centre Half
Jersey No. 5

Quite a few of these are actual hockey players, so this was a nice touch.


Anonymous said...

Ashish, SRK played a Muslim in Hey Ram.

Ashish said...

Thanks. I stand corrected.