I would never have seen this movie had Kalpana Sharma not written an article about it. That’s because it has one of the worst names a movie can have. Believe it or not, this movie is a good one, even though it’s called (Ugh!) Chak De India.
As they say in such situations, no points for guessing. That there are several servings of plenty of patriotism. There are some other usual Bollywood ingredients too, but not too many. The movie is of a surprisingly grown up kind for hard core mainstream Bollywood fare.
What did I like in the movie? For one thing, as the title of Kalpana Sharma’s article says, the celebration of difference. The run of the mill reviews may tell you that the star of this movie is Shahrukh Khan, but actually there are many stars. All the girls who played the roles of hockey players. That’s right, the film is about women’s hockey, in a country which is mad about cricket, but whose national game is (men’s) hockey. We are after all very good at such, well, duplicities.
So the movie is about how a rag-tag team of real (mostly) desi girls from all corners of India is inspired to win the (women’s) hockey World Cup. By a coach who is a former disgraced (men’s) hockey star. The fact of his disgrace is closely bound to the fact that he is a Muslim who was the captain of a team which lost, no points again, to Pakistan when his deciding penalty stroke ended up being a missed chance.
But the above summary doesn’t do justice to the film, because there are many other things which I liked. One being the language(s) used by the players from (desi) ‘states’. Another one is that there is no girl who is shown to be the Hero’s girl: quite a bold thing for a Bollywood movie which has been made for one of the most male chauvinistic societies in the world. Can you imagine a Hero who is without a girl, even a bewafa one? And that too when he is surrounded by girls all day. Who are almost at his mercy. Amazing! How would an Indian male be able to digest this fact. Crazy! (Is someone asking whether he is …?).
So, the movie is bold about representation of the minorities, stereotypes of tribals from Jharkhand (‘junglees’), girls from the North East (‘chinks’), cricket being a real career and hockey being ‘just a stupid game’, women’s career versus men’s career etc.
The scenes of games also look quite authentic, perhaps with some help from the CGI people. The director sure seems to know something about hockey. May I say that it is one of the best sports movies made in India, including Iqbal.
There is one thing though which is very odious about the film: the coach seems to be acting like a gentler version of the trainer in Full Metal Jacket. And this brings us back to the overdose of patriotism, which often threatens to make the movie unwatchable. Perhaps the director thought that the bitter anti-stereotypic medicine can only be given with the sugar coating of patriotism. The coating has become quite thick. Perhaps we will have to wait for some more time to have movies without such things. Till the protesters on the margins have struggled enough and sacrificed enough and till what they struggled for becomes mainstream and can be openly accepted by the Yash Chopras of the world.
If it ever does.