Saturday, September 01, 2007

Film Review (E): Chak Dé

Like most Indians, I don’t much care for hockey, more so women’s hockey. Once upon a time, Hockey was indeed our National Sport: those were the days of Dhyan Chands & repeated winnings of Gold Medals at the Olympics & inflicting crushing defeats on world-superpowers, which promptly shamed them into abandoning hockey-sticks altogether. But that was long before the Plague of Cricket descended upon India, creeping out of carefully trimmed bougainvillea boundaries of hallowed Residency Clubs with gateposts proclaiming “Indians and Dogs Not Allowed”- upon whose manicured lawns, our erstwhile Rajahs & Nabobs (presumably, the writing on the gatepost did not apply to them) were permitted the pleasure of proxy-battles with their Imperial suzerains but with nothing more lethal than a bat, a ball and three long sticks- and quietly spilling into those wide open spaces that the ‘natives’ used for no particular purpose other than perhaps, answering nature’s call in the wee hours.

Sport historians- in this Age of Superspecialities, I’m sure we’ve some of those too- would find that the Rise of Cricket didn’t automatically lead to the Fall of Hockey; some will no doubt attribute it to Cricket’s tremendous potential as a revenue-rainmaker on primetime television (the end of each ‘over’ and every ‘out’ and ‘boundary’ provides plenty of time to advertise such life’s necessities as “Fair & Lovely Men’s Fairness Cream”) vis-à-vis Hockey’s paucity to do so (half times, anyone?); others, not quite content with this slightly ‘Marxist’ interpretation, will cite the example of Football, which suffers all of Hockey’s handicaps (‘it’s Football with a stick, really’) and yet manages to be the West’s most popular sport. What they will not dispute, however, is the imminent coup de grace of Hockey. Not so anymore: “Chak Dé”, a film starring Bollywood’s current heartthrob, Shahrukh Khan and eleven incredibly entertaining women, might well have postponed the Death of Hockey if not entirely Resurrected it to the national centrestage.

Like Hockey, I am not much of a fan of Mr. Khan’s over-the-top theatrics: frankly, I found his stammering-Kks a bit of an annoyance (not to mention the fact that most women I liked crooned over his life-size posters while barely noticing my real-life existence). It was, therefore, after much resistance that I finally yielded to the inevitable: Mummy’s diktat that I see the movie, pronto. Quite sensibly, I did so after a rather satisfying lunch, comprising a delectable Ghost ka Salan prepared by a friend whose ancestors came from Kashmir, carrying with them culinary secrets of the Wazwan; in short, Chak De was intended to be little more than a substitute for a much-needed afternoon siesta. That it wasn’t. Au contraire, it was a movie unlike any other I’ve seen in a long, long time; quite certainly, the year’s best. And not because of Hockey, or even Mr. Khan.


At its heart, lies the full-throttle Celebration of the Underdog's Comeback. Yash Raj Films, Chak De’s producers, are no fools: they haven’t risen to the top of their business by making movies about outdated sports hardly anyone watches anymore; it’s because of their incredible capacity to tell stories that make us feel better about ourselves, about who we are, and what we might become; all of it happily peppered with the age-old recipe of Unity in Diversity. In this case, the story is inspired by real life. India’s humiliating defeat in hockey in the 1982 Asiad Games was attributed to its Goal Keeper, Negi, who apparently “gave away” not one or two- but seven- goals to her archrival, Pakistan. My father was there, sitting in the spectator’s gallery of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at New Delhi (thanks in fact to his current archrival and then Sports Minister, Mr. VC Shukla), when it happened: they- the nation- felt betrayed. Mr. Negi, needless to say, was disgraced, and retired to a quite life in Indore (where Papa was posted as Collector) until he resurfaced as the Coach of India’s nondescript women’s hockey team. Under him, it went on to win the Asian Games (if not the World Cup).

On the whole, Chak De remains faithful to this tale: the only notable- perhaps, necessary- difference is that unlike Mr. Negi, Mr. Khan’s character doesn’t quite yield seven goals to Pakistan for even a star of his stature cannot hope to carry the audience after a blunderbuss of this magnitude (notice, that I refrain from using the word ‘betrayal’). Instead, his character is allowed to get away relatively lightly, with no more than a penalty-miss. Let’s just say that it wasn’t his best day. The consequent disgrace, then, is attributed, in part to a witch hunt led by a hyperactive media but mostly to the fact that Mr. Khan’s character, like his real life persona, is also Muslim (hence, it would seem, the affinity with Pakistan). In fact, this subtext of communal ambivalence, so prominent even today in the majority community’s attitude towards their Muslim counterparts during India-Pakistan matches, makes the film’s adaptation prescient to contemporary India’s socio-cultural discourse, and more than justifies this corruption of Mr. Negi’s lifestory.

It also exposes, perhaps for the first time on the silver screen, the sloppy underbelly of “sports administration” in the nation: “the Federation,” remarks one player, “exists for us; not the other way round.” At the Atlanta Olympics, India’s best shot at winning a Gold in the Light Weight Wrestling Category was squandered because some blessed official of the Wrestling Federation entered our contestant (who, like Mr. Negi, also happens to be from Indore) in the Medium Weight Category, leading eventually to his- no, not the official’s but the contestant’s- disqualification. Apart from this evidently insurmountable bureaucratic malaise, the film also criticizes the political compulsion to provide adequate ‘representation’ to all the states while constituting national teams. In an early roll-call scene, Mr. Khan’s character bars players from playing so long as they continue to introduce themselves by shouting their names followed quickly by those of their domicile-states; and it is only after they realize that they are all infact playing for IN-DI-YA that they’re allowed to commence training.

Frankly, I find it difficult to subscribe to the film’s anti-reservation stance: in a Utopia of equalities, it might well be different; but where not every state has the facility to produce world class players on their own, it would be insane, not to mention unfair, to populate the team with players from say, Mumbai, on the sole pretext that they’re better. As it is, better players are, like everything else, increasingly becoming products of laissez affaire market forces, which are yet to permeate into the nation’s predominantly rural hinterland. Sui Mui Kerketta, a key-player in Mr. Khan’s inimitable team, hails from a remote part of Jharkhand (in actuality, however, she is a Tamilian): this fact, more than any other, would have weighed in her favor in ultimately landing her a spot on the national team.

For the record, this Blog believes that Affirmative Action is intended to ‘promote equal opportunities for all’ where they do not formerly exist; to do away it, therefore, would be a validation for inequalities- historical, social, regional and economic- to continue in perpetuity. Needless to say, over time, the scope of affirmative action itself is intended to reduce in direct proportion to the overall reduction of inequalities; to increase its prevalence simply due to considerations of Macphersonian votebank politics, as is often the case, defeats its very purpose. For instance, the basis for the application of affirmative action to Muslims ought to be “The Sachar Committee Report”; not the indiscreet wooing of the minority voter (but this is a subject matter befitting a separate entry).


The issue of Gender Politics is also dealt with somewhat unabashedly: in one mise en scène, the women’s hockey team quite literally beats a bunch of juvenile eve-teasers at a local McDonald's, no doubt drawing inspiration from their counterparts on the women’s wrestling team. In yet another scene, a ‘senior’ player, passed over for captaincy by Mr. Khan, offers her body to him (needless to say, he refuses, pontificating that “this is the reason why you aren’t captain in the first place”). Even more intriguingly, the onscreen portrayal of an ultimately doomed romance between the team’s centre-forward and the celebrity Vice Captain of Team India, who couldn’t care less about his paramour’s profession, becomes a metaphor for the off-screen relationship between the two sports: Hockey and Cricket do make rather strange bedfellows.

In the end, what makes this film work, especially with non-hockey, non-Shahrukh viewers like me, are the heartwarming performances of the eleven women players; none of them are professional actors, and it is perhaps this fact, more than anything else, which imparts to their characters, a kind of spontaneous vulnerability that has us rooting for them all the way: Chak Dé, India!

AJ

4 comments (टिप्पणी):

Tara said...

hey its tara, here is the website i was talking about where i made the extra summer cash.......... the website is here

chaya said...

nice review... really enjoy this movie.. n the seen in which that hariyanvi player pass the ball n sought " le prity bata diyo apane londe ko" like most.

Anonymous said...

HI AMIT,

I REALLY M IMPRESSED WITH THE WAY YU HAVE WRITTEN TO ALL YOUR FRDS THAT '' CHAKE DEY '' IS A MOVIE WORTH SEEING BY EVERYINDIAN .WE SHOULD BE PROUD OF OUR INDIAN FLIM FERTINITY TO CREAT A REAL PASSION FOR OUR COUNTRY BY MAKING SUCH GOOD FILM.

I MUST TELL YOU, THIS IS THE ONLY MOVIE WHERE I HAVE LIKED THE PERFORMANCE OF SHAHRUKH KHAN .THE SCRIPT WAS STRONG WITH A MESSAGE FOR EVERYCOUNTRYMAN, AND EVERYONE HAS CONTRIBUTED WITH THEIR TERRIFIC ACTING.

I WAS A DIE HARD FAN OF ''ROCKY BALBO'', BUT TODAY I CAN I HAVE ''KABIR KHAN '' IN MY LIST TOO.

THANKS FOR SENDING ME THE MESSAGE I REALLY WOULD LOVE MEETING YOU PERSONALLY SOME DAY.

REAGRDS

GURJEET SINGH

Anonymous said...

dear amit ji,
I saw the movie chak de its really good......and full of nationalism,thanks for recomending it, this is in a real sense positive aspect and a constructive role of media and film industry.Now a days it is very difficult to find such movies the only stuff we find is full of violence spreading a negative impact on the youth of the nation .Hats off to yash raj banner to provide such healthy and motivational entertainment.I was in delhi for more then a week for my business purpose as we are running a education consultancy co. which guides the client for future build up ..... regarding career, training and placement etc.It was nice to recieve a mail from you ,keep in touch and any sort of service is welcome from my side here in rajasthan.......my cell no is 9829070307

regards
NARESH RAGHANI

get the latest posts in your email. ताज़े पोस्ट अब अपने ई-मेल पर सीधे पढ़ें

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

DISCLAIMER. आवश्यक सूचना

1. No part of this Blog shall be published and/or transmitted, wholly or in part, without the prior permission of the author, and/or without duly recognizing him as such. (१. इस ब्लॉग का कोई भी भाग, पूरा या अधूरा, बिना लेखक की पूर्व सहमति के, किसी भी प्रकार से प्रसारित या प्रकाशित नहीं किया जा सकता.)
2. This Blog subscribes to a Zero Censorship Policy: no comment on this Blog shall be deleted under any circumstances by the author. (२. ये ब्लॉग जीरो सेंसरशिप की नीति में आस्था रखता है: किसी भी परिस्थिति में कोई भी टिप्पणी/राय ब्लॉग से लेखक द्वारा हटाई नहीं जायेगी.)
3. The views appearing on this Blog are the author's own, and do not reflect, in any manner, the views of those associated with him. (३. इस ब्लॉग पर दर्शित नज़रिया लेखक का ख़ुद का है, और किसी भी प्रकार से, उस से सम्बंधित व्यक्तियों या संस्थाओं के नज़रिए को नहीं दर्शाता है.)

CONTACT ME. मुझसे संपर्क करें

Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
Telephone/ Fascimile: +91 771 4068703
Mobile: +91 942420 2648 (AMIT)
email: amitaishwaryajogi@gmail.com
Skype: jogi.amit
Yahoo!: amitjogi2001