Friday, 24 August 2007

Film Review: Chak De India: Of Indian Women, Regionalism, Grit & Teamwork

Chak De India (2007)
Director: Shimit Amin
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade, Shilpa Shukla and other gifted actors 

Even though the cliches of a sports-based film are all there - locker room pep talk, underdog to champion, the treatment by the director gives it a fresh look. The dormitory, the sports campus, the players - look real. They are not stars and they actually play hockey. No stunt doubles here.

The hockey matches are executed brilliantly, great camera work and the sound of the whirring hockey ball, the spectators displayed - without any prejudices. Best watched on a 70mm screen for a wonderful feel of the game.

Shah Rukh Khan is understated and at the same time expressive, none of his stylish dialogues so unfairly imitated on TV comedy shows. We believe him to be the coach, unlike the Karan Johar films where he seems only a replica of himself - Shah Rukh Khan.

Many movies have suffered due to star presence. The story and screenplay are given a pass, for if there is a star it is going to be a hit anyway, why try anything new? Why take risks? It was the case with Shankar's Rajnikanth starrer Sivaji (2007) and Sanjay Gadhvi's Dhoom sequel. Here Shimit has taken the risk with a different story to tell.

The message is clear - cut the jingoism, the big talk - focus and work hard on your dream, vested interests have no place in a team game. By the end credits, the film made me think - What can I do for my country?

Way to go Shimit Amin, has come a long way from the grittyness of Ab Tak Chappan (2004). The most striking feature in the initial minutes are the cultural prejudices of India that are brought out and how we look at women: People from north-eastern states look like the Chinese, there are wild people in Jharkhand, a Tamilian, Malayalee or a Hyderabadi, one is always called a 'madrasi'. Insensitivity and the habit of mocking everything under the sun are highlighted here.

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