Chak De India, a movie mostly about women’s hockey, starts with scene of a men’s hockey match between India and Pakistan. India is trailing by a single goal and are awarded a penalty stroke in the last minute. Kabir Khan, the Indian captain, played by Shah Rukh Khan, steps up to take the penalty. To everyone’s disappointment, he misses and India loses the World Cup to its arch rivals Pakistan.
Was there a conspiracy behind his missing the penalty? The media thinks so and plays up the story, disgracing Kabir Khan and labeling him a traitor, forcing him to leave his home and disappear into oblivion.
Cut to the present day when the hockey selectors are thinking about sending the Indian women’s hockey team to the World Cup. Kabir Khan turns up and gets the job to the coach of the team, not exactly the high-profile job that everyone is fighting for.
The 16 players for the team turn up, players from different states and regions of India. One scene during this sequence stood out because of how it captured the reality of being a woman in India.
The coach is tough on the players from the beginning and it’s the old sports movie trick of bringing the players together as a team. Will the team get to go to the hockey world cup? Will the players put aside their differences and gel as a team? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out since I’m not going to give you spoilers. What I will give you is more of my thoughts on the movie.
There are only two movies in which I’ve enjoyed watching Shah Rukh Khan. Swades was one, Chak De India is the other. The common thread between the two movies? Shah Rukh not being Star Rukh but playing the character. I wish more directors would make Shah Rukh do this because when he does stay within the character he’s a treat to watch. No ki..ki..ki..ki..kiran please.
The other stars of the movie are the players that make up the hockey team. They’re mostly unfamiliar faces but they perform like pros. Apparently, only a couple of the actresses have had previous acting experience, so that makes their performance commendable. (More here)
The script by Jaideep Shahni is well-written and manages to keep your interest throughout the movie. The dialogues too pack a punch and there’s quite a bit of humour as well, mostly tastefully done. (There are scenes in Chak De India that may remind you of Miracle or other sports movies but the similarities are marginal at best.)
The director Shimit Amin deserves a lot of credit for the success of the movie. He handles the interplay between the characters, the angst of Shah Rukh, and the challenges (especially logistical) of telling such a story very well.
A word for the background score by Salim Sulaiman, which is catchy and integrates well into the movie. Of course, I’m partial to music directors who use catchy guitar riffs, especially with distortion.
You would think that a movie about hockey, and that too women’s hockey in India would not do too well. You would be wrong. The people in the theatre where I watched the movie were so taken by the movie they were cheering and whistling at times during the hockey match sequences.
Chak De India is not your average Hindi movie with song and dance sequences, so don’t go expecting the usual masala. What you can expect though is a well-made, feel-good movie that is worth watching.
So, go watch.
PS: Chak De India is supposed to be based on a true story. According to these articles, it’s inspired by the story of Mir Ranjan Negi, the Indian hockey captain, who conceded seven goals to Pakistan in the 1982 Asiad. I remember the incident and the condemnation that the goalkeeper got, even if I didn’t remember his name.