Moments. Sports history is all about moments. Moments that make you smile. Moments that make you cry. From Michael Holding being adjudged leg before wicket to Mohinder Amarnath in the Prudential Cup final in 1983 to the last ball six by Javed Miandad off Chetan Sharma in the final at Sharjah in 1986.
But then Indian sport is not only about cricket. There are many such life-changing moments in so many other sports that never make it to Page One. One did. When Kabir Khan’s (Shah Rukh Khan) penalty stroke missed the top left corner of the goal by inches. Suddenly ‘Asian hockey’s best centre forward’ was accused of throwing away the match against Pakistan. The newspapers did put that on Page One.
Seven years later, Kabir was facing another such critical moment. A moment that could redeem everything he had lost — pride, integrity, honour and even the roof above his head. A few seconds later, as Vidya’s save gives 16 Indian girls their magic moment of triumph, Kabir smiles. Kabir cries.
He doesn’t have to ruefully rub his World Cup silver medal anymore. It has turned to gold. Without him taking the field or striking the ball.
Just like our knowing who would win the Lagaan match did not stop us from cheering Team Bhuvan till the last ball was bowled, nothing can stop us from rooting for Kabir’s girls till the last shot is struck — and saved.
Unlike Lagaan, Chak De spends a lot more time on the build-up to the grand finale. And that’s a good thing. Because when you have a Manipuri girl who can only say ‘Ho,’ a Punjabi kudi who is always as angry as Sunny Deol, and two main players under constant pressure to get married, the coach (Kabir) sure has his work cut out. Turning a bunch of “lota belan chalanewali Bharatiya naari” into a world-beating “raakshason ki sena” is as close to mission impossible as it gets. And so Tughlaq — that’s what the girls call him — turns the hockey camp first into a refugee camp and then into a concentration camp. Once the neeyat is in place, the taqaat comes free.
Chak De India works on so many levels that it will even engage those who have only seen hockey sticks being used to bash up Bollywood baddies. Shimit Amin brings alive the grind on film — that too in a Yash Raj film — as you can almost feel the sweat of the girls on the green just as you could smell the blood on the gun of Nana Patekar’s encounter cop in Ab Tak Chhappan (Shimit’s debut film).
Barring a few very filmi lines, writer Jaideep Sahni makes the “gulli danda sport” talk to you. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography and Salim-Sulaiman’s score make you go “Chak de...”
Shah Rukh was really good in Swades and Paheli, but it is with Chak De India that he truly manages to blend his star aura with the portrayal of a real person. You hear him give the pre-match pep talk and you feel like running on the field armed with a hockey stick.
The jury is out on whether Mir Ranjan Negi did throw the infamous Asian Games match against Pakistan or was wrongly accused of match-fixing, but by being the hockey coach of a film like Chak De India — and fine-tuning SRK’s stickwork — he has done a lot for the game, just like Kabir.
Pratim D. Gupta
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Sadist proposes, masochist watches
Having been pleasantly surprised by the Manoj Bajpai starrer 1971 a couple of months ago, one walked into Kaafila hoping for a similar experience. The TV promos of the film had fired expectations. But what followed was a total disaster. One wonders why the cinema owners did not put out an ‘Enter, at your own risk’ sign outside the auditorium where the film was being screened.
Kaafila is an absolute no-show right from the first scene. The film’s basic premise — the issue of illegal migration — is a concept with a lot of potential, but it is the execution of the plot that leaves one completely traumatised.
With every aspect of the film — be it the performances, the screenplay and even cinematography — reeking of amateurishness, Kaafila is a film that only a masochist would go watch and a sadist would recommend.
The basic problem with Kaafila lies in the fact that the film tries too hard — C for effort, Z for results. In a bid to make the film ‘different’, the makers come up with a plot that fails every test of logical reasoning.
A band of illegal immigrants from the subcontinent overcomes unforeseen circumstances and tries and make its way to England in search of a better life. They must combat the Taliban, the Russian mafia and a scientist and his cronies who have invented something catastrophic. And the audience must combat the urge to walk out.
The migrants are aided in their journey by Sunny Deol who poses as an unscrupulous guide, but eventually turns out to be a Pakistani military officer! The rest of the cast being completely unknown faces, with the exception of an over-the-hill Sudesh Berry, one actually waits for Sunny to appear, complete with dhaai kilo ka haath and stormy dialogues. The less said about the rest of the plot, the better. It sure makes you want to reach out for an aspirin.
The icing on the inedible cake is director Amitoj Mann, who also takes it upon himself to play the lead role. With a clear Manoj Kumar hangover, his histrionics make the rest of the cast look like seasoned actors.
Kaafila is a film to avoid. Dev Anand’s Mr Prime Minister was a better watch. You get the message'
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They rush in where...
The opening shot sweeps the LA skyline only to zoom in on a lone traffic cop at a four-way crossing, iPod in ear, engaged in some serious bump-’’-grind to Prince. As the song reaches a crescendo and the policeman surrenders to the rhythm, so does the downtown LA traffic — vehicles screech, skid, bang against each other before coming to a halt. You know it by now. Chris Tucker, aka LAPD Detective James Carter, is in his elements. And this is Rush Hour 3.
While smooth-brotha Carter is demoted to manning the streets following his goof-ups in the last assignment, Lee (Jackie Chan) is still busy protecting the Chinese ambassador Han, which spells big trouble. Han messes with the Chinese mafia known as the Triad, gets shot at by a Chinese assassin while divulging their secret in a criminal court and lands up in hospital, where more Chinese assassins land up to kill him — including one who speaks only fluent French. Bizarre, but it works in the good ol’ spirit of goof — capped by a French-speaking nun who can’t utter the F-word but mediates as translator in the thoroughly abusive interaction.
Lee discovers that the leader of the pack is his own brother Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), while Carter makes his way back to Lee’s side, describes ladies as “sushi grade” and gets beaten up by a giant teenager at a martial arts school following his war-cry to 13-year-old children (“I’ll beat the puberty outta you!”). Hate him or love him, Carter’s the man.
The locale shifts to Paris from LA following death threats to Han’s daughter, who’s in the custody of French ambassador Reynard and the need to disclose the identity of the Shen Shei, the leaders of the Triad. Our cops are rounded up on arrival by Parisian police chief Detective Revi (Roman Polanski in an engaging cameo) and cut down to size by a dishevelled cabbie, George (Yvan Aattal), who refuses American passengers. In the course of the action that follows, however — thrilling (and funny) car chases through Parisian streets, encounters with blade-wielding Oriental temptresses, a swim through the city’s sewer, cross-fires at casinos, nightclubs and can-can clubs — the Yankee spirit of adventure rubs off, badly, on the politically-aware cabbie. So much so that he wants “to kill somebody tonight”. George does — and gets to mouth “case closed”, following an impossible climax of a fight above (and along) the Eiffel Tower.
Rush Hour3 works because of a simple formula: Chan’s reluctant action-hero stance and Tucker as the clown, and the occasional role-reversal (eg. Chan on a swing under the spotlight in the can-can club, singing a soul ballad himself). Director Brett Ratner, a constant through the first film and its sequels, has this down to a tee, which is all good. But then, all good things must end to remain that way. This is the right time to put Rush Hour to rest.
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Brolly and we
This film will make you smile. Blue Umbrella is a simple tale told well. Vishal Bharadwaj, the writer-director along with his team of writers (Minty Kunwar Tepal, Abhishek Chaubey), has transformed the novella by Ruskin Bond into a nicely etched screen fable.
Blue Umbrella belongs to the inimitable Pankaj Kapur as Nandu. Set in idyllic Himachal Pradesh, Nandu is an unscrupulous tea-stall owner. He is a greedy money-lender who keeps handing out tidbits to the children around and then getting into a tussle with them. He never tires of extracting his pound of flesh from the kids — and that could be anything from a toy binocular to litres of milk or even a pitcher of pickles.
Blue Umbrella also belongs to little Biniya (Shreya Sharma) and her beautiful umbrella. Biniya chances upon an ornate blue brolly only to find that it belongs to some Japanese visitors. The desire of possessing this blue umbrella prompts her to trade her lucky bear-nail charm. The umbrella then turns out to be the object of everyone’s envy in town.
Especially Nandu, who tries every trick in the book to bag the brolly. Biniya gives him the cold shoulder and proudly carries her treasure around — till it goes missing one day.
The mystery of the missing umbrella is solved at the end. But it is the exploration of the mysteries of the human mind that remains the most engaging.
Vishal Bharadwaj achieves that through brilliantly choreographed frames reflecting every mood swing of the protagonists.
Pankaj Kapur is brilliant in conveying various nuances of human emotion. His typical rustic humour is as effective as his pangs of possessiveness and his final emergence from darkness into light. And Shreya is truly endearing.
Vishal as a children’s film-maker has always given special emphasis to songs. Penned by Gulzar, the songs really work for Blue Umbrella. The songs at the beginning of the film give the film a happy, sunshine feel which later darkens into snowy winter. Mera tesu yehi aanra, khane ko maange dahi vada is so typically Gulzar, funny and fresh.
But unlike Vishal’s Makdee which was full-on fun, Blue Umbrella tends to slacken its pace and focus, with a frown, on the ‘message’.
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