Chak De India

Patriotism easily slips into jingoism. We have seen it do it so easily in those Sunny Deol/Anil Sharma flicks. And this one even opens with a hockey match against Pakistan; and we all know that a match against Pakistan – any game – is no less than a war. One of the many things that I loved in this superbly crafted film is that Shimit Amin keeps the patriotic valve in strict control, website like this dentist allowing it to ooze out the fervor and letting it remain as a simmering under-current in the entire narrative, medstore here but never letting it gush and drown the audience in unnecessary hyperbole or screaming monologues. The subtle patriotism extends to the selection of the game itself – it’s about hockey, cialis 40mg which is our national game (and not cricket, as some would believe). Perhaps the best touch is that the finale match is against Australia – who has been our bete noir in sports, and showing a win against them gives a curiously vicarious but satisfying thrill.

The story is simple and straightforward – a hounded-by-media-for-being-a-traitor hockey captain Kabir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) resurfaces seven years later to coach a bunch of rowdy girls team, and steers them to a resounding victory at the next World Cup. Most such stories follow a set pattern – a past that is not too shining, a team that is not too much of a team, a few external problems that need immediate attention, a few initial loses and then the last half-hour of a thrilling match, with that all-important goal/run in the very last frames of the match. Chak De India sticks to this basic framework, but what it adds on is not an ungainly mass of flab, but sinewy and rippling muscle. That’s where the film scores a straight goal.

The movie keeps a steady pace, and the narration has a light feel to it. Never does it get too heavy, even in those sad little moments when Shahrukh is fiddling with his worn out silver medal, the director just chooses to remain silent and not allowing to slid into an emotion-churning monologue, and certainly not into some song! The details are given where required (for example, we get an insight into a few players’ lives, the rest are not required, hence not given) and kept in wraps where not required (we never really come to know what Kabir Khan did in those seven years, but since it doesn’t affect the story, the script remains silent on it).

The film offers a cutting and chilling critique of the ‘diversity’ in India – and how our stereotypes often tend to make us suspicious of fellow-Indians, and this the director (very cunnningly) does by picking up all the stereotypes available: for example, the Punjabi girl is a hefty female forever spouting fireworks, the Haryanvi has an accent and attitude and is jealous and spiteful (at the same time) of the beautiful (mems as she calls it). And picking up so, the director goes on to break them one by one. Two of the finest examples are – when the clerk at the registration desk says Telugu and Tamil are the same, the girl replies “Utna hi farq hai jitna Bihar aur Punjab mein” (or something similar!) and (my favorite) the girl from far-east replies to the same clerk – “Aapko kaisa lagega ke apne desh mein hi aapko mehmaan kaha jaaye“.

As the girls learn these important lessons (eg Jharkhand isn’t about ‘jhaadi’s (shrubs) ) so does the audience – and I hope the film will be able to break some myths that we love to nourish. What the film does is much more than what a bombastic song like ‘Mere desh premiyon’ would ever do. We have narrowed our vision and perspective so much to our respective states that we now prefer calling ourselves a Punjabi or a Haryanvi or a Gujarati. Where is India in all this? That’s the first lesson Kabir Khan teaches the girls, before he gets down to the game. Of course, in all this, the umbrella theme and the unsaid point is that – please don’t be wary or suspicious of Indian Muslims!

The other aspect of the movie that I loved is that Chak De India is a veritable management course – how to lead, manage and motivate a team of irate and disparate individuals. What you learn in a dreary two-year course is simply summarized in this short two-hour film. What should a manager do? Sometimes coax, sometimes caress; at one time be casual, at others be coarse; sometimes ignore and allow the wrinkles to settle before ironing them out, but then at other times come on in full steam to straighten them! We see Kabir Khan doing all this – and more! I was very curious to see how he would handle a tough nut like Bindia Naik (the most rebellious) but the way he does so is a complete chapter in itself!

There are other issues that the film touches upon as the narrative glibly follows the underdogs’ journey – the sexist angle, the cricket vs hockey dilemma and the sickening interference of the political/government babus who can’t probably hold a hockey-stick properly but love to hold the players’ destiny in their hands (a very well shot and directed scene, especially placing the biscuits and the tea, reeks of being inside a stuffy and moth-balled government office!)

What I didn’t like in the film? That crucial scene, the final shove when the imaginary walls between the players fall – the fight scene at the restaurant – it looks too filmi and incongruous in the otherwise realistic-looking film. I wish the script writer had chosen something subtle. But when the film hardly plays to the gallery (not even SRK does so), I guess this was required.

Performance wise the film is a topper. Each of the girls puts in a splendid effort especially Chitrashi Rawat (as the Haryanvi midget who is actually a giant when it comes to her game, ego and tongue), Tanya Abrol (the Punjabi firework), Sagarika Ghatge (the Chandigarh queen who has to deal not only with the game but with her self-obssessed boyfriend as well) and Shilpa Shukla – the team’s seniormost and a rebel-without-a-pause.

Finally, it is a delight to watch Shahrukh Khan – he can whip up a storm even when he is not really looking into the eyes of the audience and fiddling directly with their emotions. Hate him or love him, but his amazing energy and outstanding screen presence cannot be denied. Arguably, he has a charisma that pulls the audience to the theaters, and even when his friends and films fail him (that bore called Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna is still fresh in my mind), you can’t fully fault him. And in this one, he is not even ballistic about his energy, yet it simply sizzles up the screen, leaving you wondering why there should be such a huge gap between a Swades and a Chak De India.

The film’s mammoth strength is that it has a terrific repeat value. I am all game to watch it again. And the few friends with whom I discussed the movie held a similar view. When you exit a theater hoping to catch the film again, I guess that’s when you know you have hit the home run! Shimit Amin, take a bow.

The movie is virtually song-less – except for the motivating background title number and a few strains of “Maula“, but Salim-Suleiman create a suitable environment with their background score.

Mercifully, there is no romantic angle in the film and certainly no love triangle involving the players vis-a-vis their coach!

The film rests comfortably on three strong pillars – Jaideep Sahni (the script writer who earlier wrote the laugh riot Khosla Ka Ghosla), Shimit Amin (the director who gave the pithy Ab Tak Chhappan, and he strides from RGV to YRF very comfortably) and the production house Yash Raj Films (for providing the requisite amount of polish and panache). Chak de, Sahni, Amin and Chopras!

Overall – Don’t Ever Miss It!

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13 Responses to “Chak De India”

  1. Juneli says:

    So it have seen this film. Yet to see…

    As usual I’ll read later on 🙂

  2. Ektaran says:

    I was planning to give this movie a miss….sole reason being SRK. But, after reading such good reviews, I might actually watch it. Btw, haven’t read your review…..will come back later.

  3. Manish says:

    Myself saw it last night. Totally agree with ur each comment. Very well written movie, and thoroughly researched. Very nice review! I knew it it will be here today 🙂

  4. kaush says:

    Agreed. Agreed.Agreed. But you already knew that! You also posted the bloggers meet details I am so jealous!

    I am going to watch Chak De India again today! Yay!

    My favorite lines also were those two in the beginning about teluguand desh main mehmaan waala. When I was writing my review I just didnt have enough words or I guess the right words to pen it down the way you did! Fabulous review DJ.

  5. kaush says:

    you know I actually loved the mcdonalds fighting waala scene. something subtle would have been slightly less believable IMHO. I also liked how the girls bash the boys, oh and when SRK says “waise bhi hockey main chakke nahi hote” :P:P the dialogues are just mindblowing!

  6. Kislay says:

    Wonderful review.

    Some food for thoughts for our national hockey team.

  7. priyangini says:

    Its a huge hit so public thinks just like you do. I have been trying to get tickets for the last two weeks but all houseful. I love to watch Shahrukh when he is not being well… Shahrukh, thats why I really want to watch this one. Hopefully this weekend I can book the tickets and watch it. Also I love the song, chak de chak de, ek hocky doongi rakh ke. I like Kaush, like it when girls can bash up boys. 🙂

  8. Pratik says:


    The show was housefull…

    After reading reviews and this post, I want to rush to theater right now…But I think so do hundreds of people 🙂

    Though planning to catch the movie on this weekend.

    And as usual, a nice review indeed!

  9. hello DJ,
    wonderful review which has perked up my interest in this “sport” walee theme 4 a Desi fillum.
    Now , i will see it .
    Your description of Mr Shahrukh Khan’s screen presence is 100%
    apt !
    Well said.
    How i wish, he’d make really serious love story with an esha Deol
    some day where Momma Hema ji won’t interefere .
    aah …just a thought …

  10. Ayeesha says:

    Saw the movie on the Friday it was released, loved it. Am not too much of an SRK fan but loved him here. In fact, am tempted to see it again!!

  11. sunflower says:

    Have yet to see the film… though I heard some terrific word-of-mouth…


    my self imposed ban on staying away from films continues, though I vaguely want to see this film…. more for SRK than anything else I guess….

    the review, as always is well written and has (as always again) certain spoilers…. why you had to give away the best dialgues of the film!!!! hmph….

    and I agree with Kaush too…. watching girls bash up boys is always fun…. remember the 70s – 80s ka films where Sridevi used to bash up the baddies???

  12. Thiru says:

    I would like to see this movie as 3 of my friends have recommended saying ‘the film is on the Remember the Titans, Lagaan flavour’. Because I wanted to watch the movie, I just skimmed through your review.

  13. Amazing review Deepak!

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