Cast: Navdip Singh, Simar Motiani, Bajrangbali Singh, Nafisa Ali
Director: Zaid Ali Khan
IE Rating: ** 1/2
A bunch of portly fellows are sitting around a table groaning with oily pakodas and other goodies. These are sports officials at a national-level meeting to discuss the list of athletes who have been chosen to represent the country at an international meet event in Dubai. They all have families they want to cart along. One of them wants to go alone , because nudge, wink, that’s where the fun is. They find the allocated budget being used up in this manner, so one of them has a brainwave : why don’t they get the chosen athletes to cough up the money?
That the hefty sum will make it impossible for impoverished athletes to travel is of no concern to them. The sequence is done with insider knowledge, and will find an instant connect with many sportspeople in India who have suffered in this manner. There are other several life-like moments in ‘Khwaabb’, a film that deals with the difficulties talented but poor sportspeople face : the tyranny of a drunken father that a promising swimmer ( Motiani) deals with, a lecherous coach that attacks her, and the near-insurmountable problem of just not having enough funds. The not having enough is also the problem of her male athlete friend ( Navdip). Both are from the same village, and both are spotted by an idealistic coach ( Bajrangbali) who knows how to collect money but has no idea how to make money.
‘Khwaabb’ does fine when it sticks to its sports and the hard uncompromising training that makes winners, and the dangers of jealous rivals. The leads look at home churning up the pool and on the track, rare in Bollywood : sports is not incidental to the plot, but integral to it. It is rough hewn but the simple style suits the film. But it slows down when it gets into emotional territory, and the large chunk given to Nafisa Ali who plays a swimming expert is a drag : that she has been a swimming champ we all know, but not all champs can be credible coaches.
It’s tough to make a true-blue sports film, minus song and dance and melodrama, in Bollywood. This one has tried.