CAST: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade, Segarika Ghatge, Shilpa Shukla, Chitrashi Rawat, Tania Abrol
DIRECTOR: Shimit Amin
At one point in the film, Shah Rukh backs up a lout brandishing a cricket bat against a wall and says : ‘Hamari hockey mein chakke nahin hotey.’
Yay, yay. Hear it for hockey, for sports movies, and yes, SRK. Chak De, India is by far the most authentic, meticulously researched sports movie India has made. Sure, there are some populist cracks against cricket and cocky cricketers which will gladden the hearts of those who don’t worship at the game’s altar, and yes, there do exist such creatures in India, unbelievable thought it may sound. But ‘Chak De’ is a movie which goes about its purpose seriously : to show how a beloved sport, having fallen into the clutches of opportunists and bagmen, and petty, greedy, self-serving Dilli babus, can be rescued, with vision and determination.
It’s not all rousing action and winning streaks, though. The first half, especially, is predictable, and a little stodgy, in the way it brings state champions into Delhi’s national stadium, and has coach Kabir Khan holler at them: I don’t want to hear the names of states, I only want to hear the name of my mulk, India. Welcome excitement creeps in, post interval, as the rag-tag team, gets whipped into shape, and goes on to win the world cup.
What makes Shimit Amin’s film, his second after the gritty Ab Tak Chappan, stand out from the Yashraj clutter this year, is its ability to keep the tracks undiluted. None of the girls breaks into song and dance, and no one is allowed to show skin. Yes, really. Even when one of them comes onto the coach, in her desire to be made captain, we only hear the sound of the zip. Khan zips the jacket right back up, and with that, seals her desire to be part of Team India.
So does Shah Rukh cut it as a hockey player cum coach? This is SRK in realistic mode again, after Swades. When Coach Khan and his girls are out on the field, whacking everything in sight, and rampaging through the world’s best teams, you think, hey, that looks do-able. When you hear a mob targeting the disgraced Kabir, who muffs a penalty shot in the dying moments of an important match at the peak of his career, as a Muslim and a gaddaar, you can see the pain and anguish in SRK’s eyes. That’s real, too. But Kabir Khan doesn’t get as far from SRK, as NASA scientist Mohan Bhargav in Swades did.
Still, it is a brave role, executed with finesse, minus starry flourish. And some of the girls spark into life in the best moments in the film: especially the tiny Haryanvi spitfire, the Punjabi lass who lets fly in anger at the drop of a hockey stick, and the pretty thing from Chandigarh who wants to show her cricketing boyfriend just who the real star is. That’s hockey, and the game. Chak De.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines