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Chak De Movie Review

August 17, 2007

Now this is one feel-good Bollywood movie that makes all your feelings of nationalistic pride spring up and out! The Indian womens’ hockey team is preparing for the World Cup and India is all that they are allowed to think of…

But the movie isn’t just about that. It’s also about a coach who comes in from the cold, having been discredited once because he lost a match to Pakistan. Being a Muslim coach (Kabir Khan played by Shah Rukh Khan) doubts are raised about his loyalty to India and this is what almost destroys the man.

The movie is also about state politics and is a damning indictment on the way our national teams our chosen – based on state politics. States ‘representatives’ are what the players are all about and Kabir sneers at this method of selection. He has to struggle to exorcise the regionalism ingrained in them.

The film also brings out two other things: one, that our sports teams, even the ones which officials deride, have innate talent but do not perform because of the lack of team spirit and a killer instinct, and two, that sexism prevails – in the families of the girls, in society and yes, even amongst the members of the hockey board! The lack of team spirit is evident when the girls squabble amongst themselves and this squabbling spills over to the field as some of the good performers become more interested in personal glory rather than the team’s success. Kabir is told that it is unlikely that he will ever change the attitude of the trouble-makers and indeed right till the end one wonders whether he will succeed….this is what builds suspense. Nicely done.

I like movies which bring up serious issues and are yet entertaining and exciting. Chak De, directed by Shimit Amin, was all of that…and more. Its a sports movie but its a lot about people too. The movie has drama and not a single dull moment! There was this saree clad woman sitting next to me in the theater and she was on the edge of her seat, clapping when the team scored a goal and groaning as the players played politics…and she almost fell off her seat when the girls started to beat up a gang of boys! Little kids were also cheering!

The casting was excellent…the girls chosen for the hockey team sure knew how to play hockey and looked their part a hundred percent. They were ordinary looking athletes, complete with muscles and no ‘nakhras.’ Determined, passionate players. Each character has been well thought out. Good script-writing! Each girl has a distinct personality..and I thought that Chitrashi Rawat who played the role of Komal Chautala was pretty good and so was Tanya Abrol as Balbir Kaur. Overall however the acting was just about above average, not brilliant, including that of Shah Rukh. He did look the part though and that helped. He also played the role without his usual histrionics. There were moments when he was very very good. So even though none of the performances will win a national award, the actors were convincing and that was what was important if the audience is to believe that this team had a chance at the Gold medal!

I particularly enjoyed the brawl between the players and a group of eve-teasers at a restaurant. It was good to see girls beating up the gang and here too the director did not miss a chance to show how girls from the north-east (part of the hockey team) are often targets of eve-teasing because they wear western clothes. I didn’t think that this scene was unrealistic as these guys were not shown as ‘toughies.’ In fact eve-teasers are mostly cowards…and these girls were not ordinary girls. They were shown to be very aggressive, spirited and strong, right from the beginning.

That is why I wasn’t surprised that a team that was considered poor could get into shape for the World cup in just 3 months. Because right from the beginning the director has shown that it is the lack of team spirit and lack of confidence that is holding the team back. This is well brought out during the scene where the girls play a match against the mens’ national team (!) just to prove that they are not bad players…and well, at first they just sort of collapse, thinking that it is impossible to beat the men. But the coach has faith in them and keeps egging them on, trying to bring out their fighting spirit. And he tries to instill in them dollops of confidence, something they lack. Call it suspension from disbelief if you will, but it doesn’t seem all that weird when the team becomes a world-class team…although some moments at the end are unbelievable!

There is no song and dance, but yes there is a good background score and it brings out all the emotion and nationalistic pride inside of you. So even without the usual glamor, this movie packs enough drama and emotion to keep the audience hooked. If you haven’t yet seen it (getting tickets on the 15th was difficult!) its worth keeping on your list of movies to see.

Added later, sunday: I found this very nice link of an Indian Express article which basically tells us how the girls were chosen for their individual roles as hockey players. I was surprised to discover that actually auditions were held!! No wonder the girls seemed so right for the role.

(photo from nytimes)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2007 11:27 am

    //He [SRK] also played the role without his usual histrionics.
    okay. That was my cue. Now I’ll watch the movie. ;)

  2. August 17, 2007 1:06 pm

    ha i shld watch it :)

  3. August 17, 2007 3:00 pm

    I loved the movie. It was a good way of celeberating Independence Day. 5 of these girls are from a theatre group. Shahrukh was excellent.

  4. August 17, 2007 8:58 pm

    Exellent review, Nita! I will try to see the film as soon as it is avaliable here in Austira. thanks for highlighting the good stuff!

  5. August 19, 2007 7:00 am

    Finally a movie from Shah Rukh Khan, i am goingto go see…

  6. Phantom permalink
    August 19, 2007 3:40 pm

    Saw it last night. Very good EV (entertainment value). I liked the fact that the girls looked like normal indian girls….i.e. not like the dolled up artifical looking actresses we so often see on screen.

    Some impt messages touched on:

    1] regional sentiments do indeed exist even today, and often these do hold us back.

    2] Linguistic prejudice – in one of the scenes……the punjabi balbir kaur singh was ‘fighting” with one of the other players from bihar…and the former was shoutign in punjabi…..then SRK the coach while breaking up the fight, ticked off Balbir and told her that she shou;dn;t speak in punjabi cos the other girl doesn;t understasnd that language. Balbir then retirted that “why didn’t the other girl learn punjabi and come there” >>>> very realistic…..many folk form the north suffer from thisdelusional prejudicial sentiment that anyone indian or brown should, must speak hindi.

    3] regional chauvism – when the Andhra player came to register herself…the chap taking down the details heard her name and remarked “Madrasi ho!!!!!)….when the girl corrscted him by saying that she’s a telugu not a tamilian….the official remarked that they’re all the same…..then the girl said that a telugu person is the same as a tamilian just as a punjabi is the same as a bihari !!!!! >>> again, very realistic…..it surprises me time and time again how seemingly educated people from the north are prejudicially ignorant to the point where they cannot distinguish between the cultures in the south, or north east etc.

    4] sense of entitlement that is rampant among senior members of the team – this is a serious ailmemnt that impacts the performance of every team or organisation in India. A well performing member, or a senior member suffers from a sens eof entitlement that purely ont he basis of their past performance, they deserve 5 star treatnment forever. A sense of meritocracy is missing from our mindsets.

  7. August 26, 2007 12:29 am

    Nice movie – saw it last night and was very impressed with Mr. Khan’s performance and Sahni’s screenplay.

  8. September 4, 2007 5:40 pm

    This review of mine has been copied at the following site:

    http://sports_teams.collegesblogs.com/article/46037163.html

    and this cheat calls himself RAY. Please be aware that this thief exists. He has disabled comments so there is no way to get across to him.
    His site is called:

    http://sports-teams.collegesblogs.com/

    I have complained to his host, but I am not sure I will get a reply!

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