Despite being classified as a period drama that is set in the 80s and early 90s Chandan Arora’s new film Striker’s themes and situations remain highly applicable even in the 21st century, because at the end of the day the story is essentially about a the journey of an ordinary man. An ordinary man who strives to attain simple happiness in life, nothing grand, but just a good family life, a credible job and a respectable lifestyle. However, when an ordinary man is born into a family with limited luxuries and in an environment where doing the right thing doesn’t get you anywhere, these simple goals seem rather unattainable. Thus begins the journey of the struggle of an ordinary man named Surya, a journey that is Striker.
When asked by BollySpice why is it that he is so fascinated by the struggle of the common man director Chandan Arora replied, “More than the “common man”, it’s about the fact that I find reality so dramatic. There are so many real stories and characters that are so cinematic that it makes for interesting material.” Striker is an ordinary story about normal struggles of life, but when brought into the light of Surya’s character and his surroundings which encompasses a local Don, a simple minded brother and father and a morally confused best friend those very normal struggles seem extraordinary and become worthy of a cinematic journey.
The journey of Striker begins and ends in a small Ghetto in Mumbai called ‘Malwani’. Surya’s family (Siddharth) is just one of the many families who reside in this ghetto. Growing up in Malwani he develops a talent for the game of carom. Carom is a game played by almost everyone, but only the masters of the game can play a round on the board and walk away with big bucks. Generally, Surya wouldn’t dabble in the world of gambling, but when cheated by local travel agency, that had promised him a dream job in Dubai, he has no choice but to master his natural talent for Carom to win back all his earnings. Always by his side and perhaps pushing him in the wrong direction is his druggy friend Zaid (Ankur Vikal) and on the other side is his family who wish he’d stay away from the gambling scene. Of course, then there is the man who orchestrates this whole ordeal, Jaleel Khan (Aditya Pancholi) – the local Don. How Surya emerges from all these problems without swaying in the wrong direction is the story Striker.
Striker is a biopic at its core. It’s not about one certain event, but instead about a series of events that shape this character’s life and also shapes his personality. It is literally a journey of Surya from childhood to adulthood. When logging onto Youtube to catch the premiere or going into a cinema hall to catch this film one simply cannot expect to walk in and leave their brains behind. Absolutely not! The film is one that is as alive as cinema can be in terms of heart wrenching emotions, life changing situations and conflicting social issues. Expect views to be challenged, expect a roller coaster ride of emotions and most importantly expect to be made to think, because this is not your everyday mass entertainer with song, dance, romance and comedy. Love tracks are quite sidelined in the script, day light is rarely shown in the film and unfortunate events come crawling towards Surya one after the other, so you can imagine how all these combine to create a truly a hatke (as cliched as it sounds) genre that has never been explored in Indian cinema.
Given the genre and the story he wanted to present, Chandan Arora’s preparation for this film had to be intense and highly technical. The preparation and research Chandan has done has indeed paid off and the results of all the hard work is very visible in every scene. The director definitely had one thing imprinted in his mind when envisioning this project and that is that he wanted it as raw and as real as possible! From clothes, to hair, to make up, to sets, to camera work, to cinematography and to performances, everything is real. Creating a realistic set up of 80s society in Mumbai’s ghetto surely was no easy task, but the director has pulled it off with great ease.
However, sadly the film doesn’t showcase the same sort of perfection in its screenplay. The low point of the film is its screenplay, which is very slow paced in numerous portions. Although the length is just over two hours, even that length could have have been lessened. From the moment the film begins the audiences are brought into an immensely intense situation where Surya is trying to find out about of his family after a riot in Malwani. However, then the screenplay goes back and forth between this track which is set in the present, and the past. While this was a very impressive attempt by the screenplay writers, it may not sit well with most cinegoers, who are most likely to get confused. More importantly, because you’re so curious to know about aftermath of these riots the slow paced portions in the flashback seem unbearable because you know that in the present time frame Surya’s character is in a state of panic and so are you. All these combine to brings the marks quite low for the screenplay department and that takes a toll on the outcome of the film.
On a more positive note there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ or even an ‘average’ performance in Striker. Everyone excels beyond expectations in their roles no matter how small or how big.
Siddharth shines in a genre that he has never tried before. He is exclusively known for his super-hit romantic family comedies in Telugu cinema.We’ve often heard him say that he regards Surya to be his most challenging role till date and his best performance till date and we have to completely agree with both these statements.
Ankur Vikal delivers a completely natural performance as the controversial best friend, indeed a challenging role! Aditya Pancholi’s work was half done simply because of his screen presence because Jaleel’s character required such a persona and he fit the bill more than perfectly. Padmapriya is outstanding in a small yet very significant role. Nicolette Bird portrays her portions with ease and perfection. Vidya Malvade is brilliant as the strong minded and bossy older sister. Her chemistry with Siddharth make their scenes together some of the best light hearted moments in the film.
In addition, the cinematography and background score are highly impressive. Both these departments had been entrusted with extra responsibility because the style of Striker’s story telling was very unique and required cinematography to be ultra real and raw. Plus it required the background score to heightens the effects of any given scene and emotion. Tracks from the soundtrack are every appropriately used as background tracks and serve their purpose of displaying the characters emotions very well.
Those looking for pure entertainment and a film that requires no brain power probably are better off missing out on this one as it is one for the stronger hearted. At the end of the day Striker should impress those who watch the film with the right frame of mind and the right expectations. That is to expect a intricately crafted biopic with a combination of social issues that although depicted in the 80s and 90s are more than applicable today. So, if you classify yourself as one of the ‘stronger hearted’ members of the audiences and are ready to experience a film that is even more real than reality then expect Striker to strike a chord with you!