I am not a hockey fan and usually can just about tolerate Shah Rukh Khan. And yet, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. Brilliant writing by Jaideep Sahni!!
I am the target audience for this movie. Like many Indians, (as appropriately depicted in the movie) I am a run-a-minute person. So, any game that claims to be "exciting" when the final score is 1-0, interests me only so much. Top it off with a "Shah Rukh Khan is over-rated" attitude. You know the makers have played their cards right, if a person with such tastes was hooked to the movie through its entire length. Though the credit mainly goes to the sharp and focused writing, the casting needs special mention too. But that will have to wait...
This is Jaideep Sahni's movie all the way. The little unexpected things in the script make all the difference in an otherwise ordinary plot. In a movie about underdogs trying to achieve the impossible, you pretty much know where the story is going. It's the "how" you get there that counts and CHAKDE! INDIA scores (all pun intended!) at many levels. The obstacles that the characters encounter on the ride, and how they are overcome, keep you glued with enthusiasm till they reach their destination. And I am really glad they stuck to the hockey team and did not whine too much about the coach and his life.
The rhythmic ups and downs in the story are supported equally well by the crisp, witty dialogues and the you-are-smart-viewers silences. The sub-episodes flow from one into another without being episodic. That the editors did their job well is also demonstrated by this remark I overheard on my way out of the movie, "The good thing about Hindi movies these days is that they are only two hours. 9.30 to 11.30 - nice movie". The movie had actually started at 9. If a movie felt 20% shorter than it was, the editing department has done their job really well.
Oh yeah, casting...the first thing you do to sell an ideology is to get a popular actor on board. But, they went one step further. The whole team is perfectly cast. From the hockey team to the hockey association members - not one of them can be singled out for not fitting into the shoes of the character. It is difficult to say whether the dialogues were written first or the actors were chosen first.
Okay - I loved Shah Rukh Khan's acting! There - I said it. Done. (Believe me - It wasn't remotely as easy for me to write this as it is to read it.) The smirks were conspicuous by their absence; there was only an occasional, unnecessarily long-paused sentence; no romantic lines delivered in half-whispers (thank goodness!); and - get this - no trade-marked raising of hands on the side as if he is waiting for me to hug him. Best of all, he shared the space with the girls without overshadowing them. No-no, it's not only things that he did not do. There are things that he did right too. He was very controlled in emoting frustration, happiness, anger, disbelief. Actually all this made me excuse the occasional "I am the King" attitude (Ray Ban, et al)...ahem...okay...now before I get a divorce notice in the comment space here, let's wrap this up here.
When the entire audience is rooting for a women's hockey team for 150 minutes straight, you know the movie has worked. The movie certainly achieved its aim of drawing attention to our national sport and especially to the plight of the women in this sport. It invoked the national spirit, made us whistle and cheer, clap hard, and laugh out loud. It was almost like we were in a stadium watching an actual game. The question, now, is - are we sensitized enough to do something about the situation? Meanwhile, like Shah Rukh's acting keep your expectations in control and enjoy the show.
- meetu, a part of the audience