Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Chakde! Chakde! Ek Hockey Doongi Rakh ke…

Before the Yash Raj Films’ disaster of the year Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom – though I personally loved the abstractness of the movie and also appreciated the way director has played with the allegory of Prince Charmings and Dream Girls - appeared on the screen; loomed large the image of Shahrukh Khan in his new avatar (in a teaser of a forthcoming movie “Chakde! India”) as the coach of India’s women hockey team, gearing to win the World Cup. I hope it is not another sports based movie gone wrong from YRF camp, after their really tacky take on NASCAR in Ta Ra Rum Pum – which in turn was a very bad copy of Russell Crowe’s Cinderella Man.

Also YRF has this habit of unashamedly depicting Punjabi culture, traditions, songs and even Punjabi conviviality in a bad taste. I mean Punjabis are just not like that. But may be this sells, so much so, that these film makers are tempted to repeat the formula over and over again. But seemingly in Chakde! India, there is some semblance of reality and moreover this movie is based on a true story. Also the game hockey is so Punjabi in spirit. So Chakde! to that. The sports based movies are nothing new in Hollywood but in Bollywood these themes have rarely been tackled successfully and as far as my memory serves me Chakde! would be the first movie with hockey – our national game – as the premise. Another first which can be attributed to Chakde! is that it is a sports based movie where the players are from fairer sex unlike its predecessors. I am just yearning for this movie to be good and a big hit. Hopefully it will bring back certain glamour to the game hockey as I am really disappointed with Indian Cricket in general and also the predictability which has set in cricket matches.

The promo of Chakde! India (depiction is courtesy,
Abid: Glamsham) is a long theatrical preview of the movie. The promo comes just before the start of Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom and commences with Shahrukh Khan looking classy in sober but sophisticated white-grey attire, and announcing to the audience (in a confident manner) - ' I'll introduce the team that is going to win the world cup for us.' After that we have some matter-of-fact rap singing by SRK, where he goes on about, 'Chak 2', 'Chak 3' , 'Chak 4'... , thereby introducing the team members to the audience and letting them know exactly what they can expect from this never-say-die, all ladies hockey team. In the background is the extremely infectious, aggressive yet so very different title track (by Salim-Suleiman) from the movie, “Chakde, Chakde, Ek hockey doongi rakh ke.” One by one the hockey team members, from different parts of India, appear on screen, with their own bits and subtle humor. In the end the whole team unites to talk about the 'Chak 1', their coach 'Khan', that is SRK!

I liked the promo for its realism and for the absence of razzmatazz which is part of any YRF product. I just hope movie is as good. Though Bollywood has rarely churned out good sports based movies, Aamir Khan seems to be a pro at it. With Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (cycling was the premise); it was again proven that audiences love to see underdogs winning. But the skill of the director was also in weaving a story around universal emotions like love, friendship, brotherhood and a father son relationship. If it would have been just another sports based movie, it would have met the fate of Aamir’s Awwal Number (based on cricket) or like that of Sohail’s Aryan (boxing) which were just trying to woo the audiences on blood rush and gore which happens in these sports.

Lack of sports based movies in India, clearly is an indicator of the society which doesn’t have a great sporting history and culture. But movies off late have tried to reverse the trend. Lagaan is a great Indian Classic. It pitches the underdogs against the strongest of enemy and unleashes a dramatic saga. Here again like all great sports based movies, the focus is not just on the game but on the emotions playing in it. It is a story of valor of one man and at the end reinforces the famous adage of fortune favoring the brave. In IQBAL all through the movie, the viewer empathizes with Iqbal since Kukunoor attempts to mirror the hardships a small-time guy faces when he dares to dream. Treating the story in the most realistic fashion, IQBAL works due to its Straight-out-of-life setting and Never-say-die spirit of the underdog. Also there have been some recent attempts like Hat trick where a sport is used as very powerful motif to depict similarities with life. That’s also a new way of story telling in Hindi Cinema. Then there are movies like Ghulam (again Aamir as a boxer), where though the game itself is not important to the movie but the qualities required in playing that game provide depth to the characterization of the protagonist.

The latest movie in this genre is truly Punjabi, Apne (partly inspired by Rocky and Raging bull). For the first time a boxing choreographer is used in Hindi Films adding authenticity to fight sequences. There is a high pitched training montage song here – one that goes “You gotta survive/you gotta hit the bullseye”. It sounds like Eye of the Tiger from Rocky III, but entire credit goes to the director to weave an emotional family drama around the game, providing wholesome family entertainment in otherwise very violent movie.

It is not surprising that most of the movies described above are cricket related considering the hysteria this game generates in our country. So Chakde! India is a welcome and refreshing change. I just hope more good movies are made in Bollywood and some fine day some Lagaan comes home with an Oscar…

“You gotta survive/you gotta hit the bullseye”