Movie Review: Chak De! India

Don’t let the publicity stills, which are plain and simple, keep you out of the theatres. A simply clad Shah Rukh Khan is no advertisement to a big banner like Yashraj Films. But it is this ‘simply clad’ SRK who surpasses himself playing the protagonist. There’s no gloss, nor glamour; no skimpily clad women, nor item numbers. In short, there’s no fluff; this film is heavy on content, and scores big time.

If the film is on the life of former India goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi, it is as much a celebration of womanhood. Watch the bunch of squabbling hockey players gathered from different states from across India, bury their differences and get home the Gold in the Hockey World Championship.

In 1982, at the Asian Games hockey final in Delhi, Negi was charged with match-fixing after India’s humiliating 1-7 loss to Pakistan. Having his honour restored in 1988, Negi later coached the National women’s team that won the Gold in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. Four years earlier, he had helped the men’s team win the Asian Games Gold in Bangkok.

The script is altered a bit here and Shah Rukh Khan who plays Kabir Khan is a centre-forward, not a goalkeeper, who misses a crucial penalty in the dying minutes of the game against Pakistan. He is branded a traitor, as images of him shaking hands with the Pakistan skipper are flashed. It was an innocent handshake, a sporting gesture, blown out of proportion. The media goes ballistic; especially the television crew who hold endless debates in their studio to ascertain the facts. Mikes are even shoved down the faces of the unsuspecting, casual onlookers asking them if Kabir Khan is a traitor!!!

Shah Rukh Khan carries off the film effortlessly on his well worked-out shoulders, damning, and sometimes pushing his wards against the wall with his grueling training techniques. There’s a signature drive to oust him as the coach from among the players, and the scene when the team is out on a farewell dinner, tables are turned as the girls take on the eve-teasing guys. That’s the moment when they bury the hatchet. And when the administrators decide at the last minute that the women’s team will not go to Australia, since the sponsors are being diverted to the men’s team, Khan pleads with them for a match with the men’s team.

As for the girls, their camaraderie and bickering is well projected and every girl stands out in her role (pun intended), whether it’s centre-back, right outer, or centre-forward!

Moments to watch out for:

  • When Anjan Srivastava, who heads the women’s hockey federation, tells a fellow administrator to accompany the team as a coach stating, “It’s a nice time for a family holiday”!!!
  • Also the scene where the two fighting forwards (Preeti Sabharwal and Komal Chautala played by Sagarika Ghatge and Chitrashi Rawat) combine to score the equaliser in the final against Australia.
  • The scene where Khan, before the match with the men’s team, tells the women, “Show them that if you can give birth, you can also be as good as them; that women are capable of much more that they are given credit for.”
  • And finally the scene where goalkeeper Vidya Sharma, played by Vidya Malvade, blocks the final shot from an Australian to give India the Gold.

There’s also a valuable lesson to be learnt—treat the game as a sport and don’t accuse someone of something as big as treachery without substantial evidence.

Chak De! India is a team effort and no one person can take credit, but for commercial purposes alone, it’s Shah Rukh Khan who will pull in the audience.

As for the women, I suggest they go in groups and bring the house down. This is one film that celebrates women power!!!

Rating: 4 / 5

Martin D’Souza

This first appeared on on February 10, 2007


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