“I firmly believe that any mans finest hour – his great fulfilment to ll he holds dear – Is that moment, when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the battlefield … victorious.”
1913 – 1970
The best sports films of the world are the ones that let the viewers experience the pains, trials and tribulations the sportsperson goes through and of course the jubilation in the final hardearned victory. This movie is quite simply the story of a wronged Indian captain who comes back to redeem himself. Its an amazing movie to watch considering that the cast having the most time on-screen are fairly wooden actors barring a few.
Coming to ShahRukh, its hard not to feel the empathy with a wronged sportsperson. Frightful even looking at our faint reflections in the movie, the Indian populace with the memories of a goldfish and the tempers of a mad raging bull and the IQs of a flock of blind sheep. Its refresing to see ShahRukh rising from his cynical, selfoccupied self in KANK to a extremely restrained mature performance. Kabir Khan, the role that he essayed has to undergo all the following feelings all at once: fear of failure, self-doubt, anticipation, expectations, leadership, unwavering confidence… Its a far cry from his role of Swades where it was a leader showing a direction; here I was completely blown away by the multilayered interpretation of the character. I tip my hat to the maestro. He is a treat to watch.
Now to the heroes of this tale – the ladies. 16 of them and whatta fun! Its tough not falling in love with each of them. I had to scream hoarse and root for each of them in each of the matches. It was refreshing to see the sincerity in each of their performance. Seeing them on screen giving hockey to each of the folks, it was tough not to even think of the odds that each of them were playing against. The gutsiness in the performances. I cant but not betray my geeky roots but 80% of the screen time is hogged by 20% of the players… but then the others do get a very justified roles. And yes, to see each of them appearing in the sarees in the dinner before in the final playoff – just had to give it to them and the nine-yard garment, they looked beaaautiful, radiant almost to the point of making me awestruck.
And now to the real heroes of the movie – Jaideep Sahni (Story, Dialogues and Screenplay) and Shimit Amin (Direction). Sports films like these are always filled with unavoidable cliches – underdog taking a one and a million shot at glory and success, the fight against all odds and seeminly unsurmountable problems, fallen heroes seeking redemption. And in spite of all this Chak De works for me, much better than Lagaan. It would be a unforsaken sin to speak so, but then couldnt help it, Lagaan had so much going in favor of it – known faces of actors, cricket which every kid knows in India, plays and connects to it emotionally, and of course the eternal jaani dushmani with England. Chak De could have easily rotted into a mind numbingly drubbing film where the women could have easily been made unpolished diamonds heroes by themselves, discovered by the coach and made invincible. But the screenplay is just taut and the amount of work that has gone into individual characterization is extremely detailed. Just look at the dry wit in Kabir Khan’s character, as a result of 7 years of self-imposed exile (of which the user knows nothing about!), a result of a system that has completely let him down. The almost despotic need to redeem himself.
And the film is highly relevant socially too…
- the subtle ways it highlights the gender roles played out by men and women and their dynamics
- players that first define themselves by their own states instead of the country
- the sorry treatment meted out to our national game! and in particular the women’s games in general
- the flak that is taken by a captain who is a muslim. It is almost like the Muslims have to prove themselves as patriots to the nation every effing time.