Cast: Siddharth,Ankur Vikal,Aditya Panscholi,Seema Biswas,Anup Soni,Vidya Malwade,Anupam Kher,Nicolette
Director : Chandan Arora
Malvani,a tiny Mumbai ‘basti,has a major preoccupationcarrom. How a recreational activity can turn into a blood sport is the thrust of ‘Striker,a striking example of just how good a film can be when the setting and the people are real. And it is an equally striking example of how a terrific effort can lose steam when it moves away from its central focus.
Surya ( Siddharth) grows up surrounded by tiny by-lanes and makeshift shanties,figures hunched over boards,hands clenching around a striker,eyes narrowed in intense concentration,and the sound of a ‘goti sliding sweetly into a corner. He grows up playing the game,but its not his whole life. At one stage,he has to abandon carrom for other thingsmooning over a girl who lives across the street,working as a courier,criss-crossing his city,which grows bigger and bigger every time he gazes out at it. But he has to come back to carrom,for it is the only way out of the mess he finds himself in. Except the game thats supposed to set him and his childhood friend Zayed ( Vikal) free,sends him straight into the clutches of local goon Jaleel ( Panscholi),and Surya is forced into becoming a striker of an altogether different kind.
Chandan Aroras film is riveting until two-thirds of its length. You can pinpoint the exact moment when the plot starts to unravel : the films going back and forth in time gets stuck at the 92 Bombay riots,and the Hindu-Muslim angle,which had been used so effectively and understatedly till then,strangles the last half hour or so.
But till then,the film is a delight. The interaction between Surya and his family is life-like,and much of the credit goes to the natural manner in which Biswas,Soni and Malwade ( mother,older brother,and sister) mesh. The early romance between pretty Muslim neighbour Noorie ( Nicolette) and Surya,which lasts for a song and a sequence,is one of the best things about the filmthe sleepless slavering over first love,where a glimpse,and maybe a touch of the hand is enough to give you a dry throat,is all there.
The rest of the performances,except for a pallid Anupam Kher as an honest cop,are excellentPanscholi,the local ‘bhai who bets on the carrom players,Siddharth-the-Striker,who returns to Hindi cinema after ‘Rang De Basanti,and Vikal,last seen as one of the bad guys in ‘Slumdog Millionaire. What really stays with you is the desperation of slumdogs Surya and Zayed,particularly the latter,who plays it with fatal insouciance,as they try and rise above their circumstance : watch ‘Striker,just for that.