Starring: Shah Rukh Khan
Director: Shimit Amin
“This is the story of a team, and they’re playing for their one and only dream. To win the World Cup, so you better back up. Cause they’re coming on now, and they’re coming on how! Get out of their way, cause they’re screaming…Chak de!”
Cricket is one of the sole forces that possess the power to make an Indian’s blood pressure rise, cause sweat to erupt from their bodies, cause their hearts to go dhak dhak—all in the name of hamaara bhaarat mahaan (our great India). However, a fact unknown to most is that field hockey is in fact the official sport of India, though it continues to struggle for recognition while cricket hogs the spotlight.
In Bollywood, sports-themed films, though neglected, are present. Audiences have grown used to movies with an abundance of cricket, whether it’s Lagaan, Iqbal or Hattrick. It’s time for something new. This is exactly where Yash Raj Films’ latest endeavour comes into the picture. Chak De India attempts to shed light onto field hockey, a sport often forced to curl up in the shadows of cricket.
There are three intriguing aspects that cause Chak De India to arouse curiosity. The first is Yash Raj Films, by far the largest and most successful production house of the country, who take another step forward into breaking the mould of films commonly associated with their banner. The second is Shimit Amin, who directed the mindblowing crime drama Ab Tak Chappan. He’s not exactly the kind of director you’d expect to take the reigns of YRF film. And last but not the least—King Khan. Need I say more?
Let’s get straight to the point. Do they score and emerge victorious? A resounding YES!!!
Seven years ago, a man named Kabir Khan played field hockey for India until an unfortunate and misunderstood incident forced his name to be ousted from hockey history. This man was forced to bear the burden of a tarnished name for the rest of his life.
Cut to the present. Members of India’s Hockey Association are seated around a table, each quietly thinking to themselves. For formality purposes, they have put together a Women’s Hockey Team and chosen 16 girls from literally across the entire country. Do they really care about the team? Not really. Do they expect them to play well? Definitely not. After all, Indian women were born to cook, clean and have kids…right? Either way, they need a coach so that their association doesn’t look bad but can’t seem to come up with anyone who would in their right mind agree to coach a bunch of mismatched girls. Well, there is one man, though nobody has seen him for seven years—Kabir Khan.
Unfortunately Khan isn’t exactly in for a breeze, and he knows it the second he meets his team. Attitude, temper, obnoxiousness—they’ve got it all, and loads of it. Sixteen girls arrive in Delhi, each carrying their own baggage from their personal lives. However, all are united with one common mission—playing hockey.
This is the story of a man who makes a bunch of misfits come together and transform into a team. A team that will not only smash all stereotypes of women, but who go on to take on the world at the World Cup Championship. However, this isn’t just the story of these sixteen girls. It is the story of a man who pours his blood, sweat and tears into the game he is passionate about, to free himself of a burden he never asked for in the first place.
Chak De India tackles more than just one theme. It gives us glimpses into the sports world and how dirty it can get, which is an aspect that the average spectator is unaware of. Also, it portrays a world of hockey, which is a sport that to date we have not had a film based on even though it is India’s national sport. Naturally, it unveils the stereotypes and prejudice that female athletes have to deal with in order to play the sport they love. Also, it portrays the unbelievable diversity within India with a comic element. Each individual story relating to the team members conveys a different thought or idea, all keeping within the sports theme of the film.
The film masters each theme brilliantly and gives an adequate amount of importance to each one. Jaideep Sahni’s dialogues are fiery and patriotic, exactly the way they need to be. His screenplay is brilliant as well, though there are a few miniscule areas in which the pace starts to drag. Still, it’s barely noticeable. Alone, Salim-Suleiman’s music is nothing more than mediocre, but once you see it on-screen, it grows on you tremendously. All tracks are used as background music and only make the film better. In a sports film, a good background score is essential to mount tension and keep audiences interested and Salim-Suleiman prove that they are a master at their craft. Visually, the film is remarkable, which should be credited to cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee.
There are so many scenes in the film that leave a mark that it’s hard to pick just a few. However, those that stay with you long after the film is over are worth mentioning. Without revealing any spoilers, all hockey matches are brilliantly shot and put together. The match just before the intermission is a masterstroke. Also, the two scenes with Kabir and his mother are touching. Not to mention those between Vidya and Kabir as well as Bindia and Kabir. The scene in which the girls attend a party clad in tricolour sarees makes you smile with pride. Last but not least, the McDonalds scene is a complete knockout! Brilliantly put together, and simply hilarious.
Frankly, sports-themed films are nothing new. But it’s the execution of the film that grants you your paisa vasool (money’s worth). The fact that watching one of Team India’s matches in the film makes your hands clammy and your heart beat faster and faster, rooting for your home team, is enough to prove that CDI does its job. As mentioned earlier, the only flaw is the few times in which the screenplay stumbles.
It’s quite obvious that director Shimit Amin knows his game, and more importantly, how to play it. As the captain of the film, he deserves full credit for crafting such an enjoyable cinematic experience. Effortlessly, he seams all high-quality aspects that you expect of a Yash Raj film and lets you walk out of the theatre smiling. It’s quite amazing how he fit so much into one film.
If Shimit is the captain then Aditya Chopra is the coach. Hats off to him for continuously trying to change the image of his production house! Undoubtedly, Chak De India is the finest film to come out of YRF so far in 2007.
I have four words for you—The King Is Back! As the star player of the film, Shahrukh Khan pitches in a fantastic performance. His dialogue delivery is absolutely stupendous and that endearing screen presence we missed so much in KANK and even Don is finally back. Also, on an even brighter note, he wins your heart without mouthing mushy lines.
While Shahrukh provides the soul, the sixteen girls provide the spirit which without the film would be absolutely nothing. It is their natural performances that make you smile throughout the film and actually care what happens next. Shilpa Shukla as the fiery Bindia Naik gets the meatiest role of the lot and makes full use of it. She just blows you away. One scene in particular, in which she tries to make a pass at SRK proves her mettle as an actress and ends up being one of the best scenes of the entire film. Next in line would be Vidya Malvade (Vidya Sharma) who not only carries a certain amount of grace and charm, but throws in a good performance as well. Sagarika Ghatke (Preeti Sabarwal) and Chitrashi Rawat (Komal Chautala) both dive deep into their characterizations and emerge with flying colours. Tanya Abrol as the stereotypical Punjabi kudi, Balbir Kaur, is a laugh riot. She’s endearing and at the same time tickles your funny bone. Agreed, she does fall into a stereotyped character, but it’s damn entertaining. The rest of the girls are all wonderful as well! Really, a stupendous effort from each one. The rest of the supporting cast all play their parts appropriately.
Overall, Aditya Chopra and Shimit Amin have led their team to victory. Chak De India has all the right aspects to make you look at your tricolour flag with a sense of pride. Even if you are not an Indian, the sheer idea of the triumph of the human spirit will appeal to you.
Ring in sixty years of Independence with this film and I have no doubts that you will walk out saying…chak de India!