This a fictional account of India’s gold medal winning hockey campaigns at 1936 and 1948 Olympics, and the problems faced by the sport during the interregnum.
Yes, you heard it right. Fictional account. Pray how cheap, manipulative and devoid of class would one be to retell a legendary story as per his or her own convenience. This, when the story has not yet been told on silver screen in the first place. I wracked my brains to find a possible explanation as to why would someone feature Dhyan Chand, but name him Samrat Singh? or Ali Iqtadar Shah Dara and name him Imtiyaz? Why would anyone temper with the scorelines of India-Germany final (1936), and 1948 Semi and final versus the Dutch and the British respectively? Why would you temper with the story of a historically glorious period ?
I HAVE NO EXPLANATION except that the writer and the director are muddleheaded perverts who have no sense of history or use for its rectitude. One cant blame Akshay Kumar for this perversion, since he doesn’t have enough brains to figure this out. He can be a Canadian and an overcompensating Indian jingoist but I dunt see why he shud bear the cross here.
Anyway a sports film shud be judged by how exciting and realistic are the field sports scene shot and depicted it in. On this count, this film might score over Soorma, but not over Chak De. Execution is very sloppy. Players demonstrate no balance or athleticism while playing hockey. Weird manner of dribbling and dodging are shown. On this count too, the effort fails miserably.
Kunal Kapoor plays Samrat Singh, aka Mr Hockey, Dhyan chand. Kunal shows promise in the role, which makes me acutely aware of the fact that there is no proper film, documentary or even biography on the great man who we revere as the Wizard of Hockey.
Akshay Kumar plays a Bengali manager-cum-wheeler dealer who puts his heart and soul into the Olympic Gold quest. The film does get two strands very right-the loss of talent because of Partition, and the context of India-Britain hockey rivalry in 1948 (given that GB didn’t field its hockey teams earlier to avoid losing to its then colony). Given the script, Akshay does the best he can, by bringing some charisma, deshbhakti and much needed humour and humanity to the film. The character he portrays is a compound of various managers, assistants, coaches and even the captain of 1948, Kishan Lal. He keeps the film together and delivers his A-list charm.
Vineet Kumar Singh has done a good job as 1936 Gold winner and 1948 Pakistani team captain. His earnestness is infectious. Mouni Roy as Akshay’s wife is quite charming. But it is Amit Sadh, who as the Nawab of Balrampur, impresses the most. His character is apparently based on K.D. Singh Babu who is considered as the best ever dribbler after Dhyan Chand. KD hailed from Barabanki. But his personality was very different from what has been portrayed on screen by Sadh, which is that of a selfish, vain and proud centre-forwards, who gets transformed by the end.
I am not sure if I can vouch for two episodes depicted in the film. The first relates to the final match of 1936, where it is shown that Indian team didn’t salute the Fuherer as a mark of protest against something he had said about India or Indian sportspersons. The second was that India and Pakistan were placed in the same pool in 1948, but authorities were forced to change the lineups and fixtures after India and Pakistan lodged spirited protests.
This is still a tolerable film, if one can find within himself to forgive the makers for taking liberty with historical facts, and overlook bad field play. Acting performances and sporting euphoria give it a lift. One can even spot hand stops while taking penalty corners which shows that some research was indeed done while making it. One only wonders then that why did they have to temper with facts so blatantly and rub aficionados the wrong way?
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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