When I came to know that Reema Kagti was making this film I felt that this would be different. But I guess when you have a star like Akshay Kumar you have to live by the successful formula. There are check boxes and you have to tick them off. So you put in a dash of in-fighting between center-forwards like in Chak de India. Add a slice of lack of teamwork, which magically turns into unity with one inspirational scene like in Chak de India (wish it were that easy in real life). Sprinkle some useless, self-serving, conniving sports officials who try to derail the show, errrm like in Chak de India. Top it off with aggressive cheats in every other team backed by corrupt referees, like in Chak de India. Bring in a special player in the last few matches of the tournament as a surprise package to break man-to-man marking, (come to think of it) again like Chak de India!!! And lest I forget, the National Anthem in the end to make you stand in the theater. Oh… so basically this is the 1948 version of Chak de India, but with men in it…
Now that you have heard about the clichés, let me tell you a little about the story. It’s about a man ‘Mr.Tapan Das’ ( Akshay Kumar) who was instrumental in bringing a team of individuals together post-independence and who helped us win our first Olympic Gold in Hockey as Independent India. Yes, it’s about the man and not about the team. I say that because the film focusses more on the man, than the game. It’s amazing how Hockey isn’t the focus in this film, just the setting. And that is epitomized by the ordinary choreography of the actual games and flimsy technique of the actors. Kagti tries to cover it with a lot of closeups of players during games rather than wide shots, but it takes away from the authenticity of it all. What Kagti focuses on instead is the rise, fall, rise again, fall again and ultimate rise of Mr.Tapan Das.
This is a little problematic because Mr.Tapan Das is an enigma. No time in spent in actually telling us what makes him a good hockey manager? All we know is that he is the only one in the entire country to be capable enough of bringing together a team. Infact he is the only one who cares! His accent is as enigmatic as him. It becomes heavily Bengali in some scenes and completely disappears in others. He picks up a bottle at the drop of a hat and leaves it as easily. You never connect with him, because you never really get to know him. All we know is that he is extremely important and he is vital to every scene. He is needed to get the team together, he is needed for the funding, he is needed for the entertainment and the songs, he is needed for the inspirational speeches, he is needed for the tactics. Others are just there to serve his goals.
And this is sad because Kagti has a bunch of good actors that are sidelined in the process. A legendary player called Samrat ( Kunal Kapoor) comes to coach the team, but disappears when he is needed the most, defying common sense. The would-be captain of the team, Imtiaz Shah (Vineet Kumar Singh – easily the best actor on display) gets a chance to shine only in a few scenes. The eventual vice-captain of the team Raghuvir Pratap Singh ( Amit Sadh – in great form) is stuck in the clichés and is not allowed to rise above the super talented player who gets all the limelight. And the hidden gem of the team Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal – Vicky Kaushal’s talented brother) is again just given a few scenes to really stand out. If Kagti had given Vineet, Amit and Sunny some more importance, this film would truly be GOLD, but because of the super-star syndrome it doesn’t even get on the podium.
I know I have panned the film right through but what can I do. The film is everything you would expect in a Jingoistic Independence Day release (sans the Pakistan bashing) and nothing else. It’s a safe film created to mint money. People won’t hate it, but they won’t remember it either. It will bring in the families and become a blockbuster. And that is about it. It adds nothing to this genre or to cinema. Not even a song that is memorable. So go ahead, go for Gold, coz it is a safe watch. It is filled with glitter. But do remember, all that glitters isn’t Gold. And if you much rather taste actual Gold, watch a re-run of Chak de India instead (and imagine what if this film was set in the 1940s).
Rating: 2/5 – Kudos to the Art Direction team though. That stands out!