Chak De India

Just caught this movie yesterday. I have to admit, when I saw the long-winded promos with a seemingly endless litany of girls who were going to form the Indian hockey team, I wasn't sure how the film would turn out and whether I would even want to watch it. But having heard nothing but good things from everyone we know, we decided to park kiddos at home and catch this one yesterday.

I am a Shah Rukh fan but not blindly - for that my hero is Aamir Khan. Shah Rukh can make my knees turn weak in a romantic film, because he has a way of bringing a touch of authenticity to those roles, and in at least one or two scenes can make my heart go pitter-pat. But this film? Shah Rukh hasn't had too much success of late in his experimental roles, though you have to give him credit for trying out new things. But after he began part of KJo's candy-floss brigade, those have been the only types of films of his that have pleased the box office. How much would he be able to contain his inner-Raj, I wondered, and how would a film work in which his charm had little opportunity to surface? I thought KANK was a bold, brave choice for him and KJo, since they broke many of the stereotypes and myths, but the film didn't do well at all, though in my opinion it's a refreshing look at marriages. Perhaps it hit too close to home and people did not want the badshahs of romance bringing them the bad news that happily is not necessarily ever after.

Anyway, Chak de was a bold, brave move for both ShahRukh and Aditya Chopra whose candy-floss romances have not done as well as expected of late. Shimit Amin's film looked a far cry from the glamorous swiss locales and chiffon-saris of a typical Yash-raj film. The characters actually looked real. Shah Rukh lived the role completely, back to his glory days of DDLJ, so much so that you started to think of him as Kabir Khan, instead of Shah Rukh Khan. The girls were real, and their emotions believable. The film is a typical sports film, with a disgraced/ uncreditable coach, an underdog team and players who are fractious and operating on personal agendas. But this is a new genre in India, and Aditya Chopra has taken a risk by focussing on women's sports, which otherwise are a non-starter in India. In fact, apart from Lagaan, I can't think of any other sports movie which has been a success here. The evolution of the team was realistic and modern - no hyperbole and overflow of love and reconciliation between the coach and the disgruntled team members. And the finale, even though one knows what is going to happen, was goose-bumpy enough for me to leave nail marks on poor A's arm as I clutched it in my tension.

A totally rousing, feel-good film, and one which also lives up to the spirit of the times. India right now is at a great place in its evolution, because at least in the cities, more and more people are beginning to see increasing opportunities, an ability to follow their passion and a high level of patriotic fervour. And Shah Rukh has moved back up on my list of favourite heroes.

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