Farewell, Agra

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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The gypsy is ready to move on. The tent has been folded, pills the bags packed and the caravan ready to trudge to yet another new place.

I left Agra – and my job – in the early evening of 31st August, visit and drove down what is probably – at least till now – the last drive on NH-2. This time I humored the stubborn ‘auto’ drivers, and smiled at the obstinate bus-drivers who wouldn’t give you way even if you blink your car blind and honk yourself to deafness. It took more than the mandatory four hours on that highway, but what the hell, I might not see it again for a long long time.

The last few days went in a daze. The city burned itself in a silly fight and curfew was imposed on several areas. For me, it was deja vu all over again. The last time I had left a city (Kathmandu, for the uninitiated), it was clamped down by curfew, although for a vastly different reason. It seems whenever I have to leave a town, it bleeds itself in pain!

Memories! They are a strange lot. Just when I thought I had nothing positive to say about Agra, other than its gargantuan wonder in marble, I seem to recall all its plus points. Here is what all passed my mind when I hit the bed the night of 31st August, in my own bed in Delhi, but my heart wandering in the curfew-stamped city 200 kms away:

  • Sadar Bazar – a vibrant and vivacious market place, which could be a setting for such romantic novel that can only be written for a small town. It’s Sunday crowd, in their best and brightest dresses, the row of eateries right in the middle, the blazing neon signs, and that small lane filled with the most sumptuous chaats and gol-gappas – all its aromas tickled my nostrils and memories!
  • The area around Fatehabad/Shamshabad Road, where I stayed for past one year. Wide open roads and lesser traffic, I took to the locality the moment I saw it. My open and spacious flat, in a gigantic white structure (which is also visible from Google earth, yes it was pretty large!) is a place I will miss for long.
  • Pacific Mall – a place I visited nearly every Friday evening to catch the latest release at its in-house multiplex – Fun Cinemas. Sadly, I tried to visit it a day before leaving, but the place was closed down due to the civic unrest in the town. Hours spent there, generally whiling away time, in its atrium, or cruising by the aisles of Big Bazar are moments to cherish.
  • The amount of heritage that Agra holds in its folds is indescribable. Before the unrest began, a friend and I visited Sikandra, Itmaudallah and that superb garden just opposite Taj Mahal – Mehtaab Bagh. What a serene location, with the Taj smiling benignly across the river.
  • The slow and languid pace that often irritated the big city boy within me, but what I would love to return to. Even though the city was maddeningly rushing on its M.G. Road, not even stopping by to accomodate the car that would have been stuck due to some reason, there was still a paradoxical slowness that appealed.
  • Sonam Bar (Shooters Club) at Agra Cantt and Jaiwal Bar (at Sadar Bazar) are firmly etched in my mind. Despite alcohol being costlier in UP (as compared to Delhi), it was the old-fashioned look and feel of these bars and restaurants that will haunt me for a long time.

There are more, and I will return to them sometime later, just the way I did so with Nepal. My next destination is not undisclosed to many readers (I have, after all, literally shouted over the emails and chat and forced it over whoever was interested, or not interested, to listen!).

It’s a new place, a new job and a new life. The gypsy will set his tent again. But for how long? Only time can tell. And of course, this place too.

Till then, au revoir Agra!

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8 Responses to “Farewell, Agra”

  1. Ektaran says:

    All the Best DJ. new place, new job.
    Waiting to know about the new place…& also for some jhatpat updates here 🙂

  2. Juneli says:

    You left the Agar too!!! :O

    Hey tumhare paaon mein chakra hai kya 😉 :P. just kidding yaar.

    Here I recalled your ever saying line “Main to khanabadosh hoon………”

    🙂 Anyway, best wishes for your new venture and new job and new place.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    All the best and TC

  3. Harshad Jangla says:


    Parivartan Sansar Ka Niyam Hai

    All the best for yr new job. Shall look forward to get the glimpses of another place in an amazing narration. God bless you.
    -Harshad Jangla
    Atlanta, USA

  4. Kislay says:

    I am badly missing you in Agra.

  5. vandy says:

    mera comment kahaan gaya :-((

  6. vandy says:

    okk I’ll write again.

    Ididn’t know u are moving.
    and donno ur new destination 🙁

    After yamuna kinare (agra) Now if it is Ganga kinare then pl lemme know..

  7. sunflower says:

    so when is salaam bombay?

  8. Kislay says:

    Another gypsy is all set for departure.

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