Place your hands together for director Shimit Amin’s Chak De India, a blockbuster Bollywood film about a disgraced former international hockey player who shows up to coach the national women’s hockey team seven years after being wrongfully accused of giving away the game.
Kabir Khan, played by Shah Rukh Khan, is the coach in question, and he convinces a timid hockey association to give his side a shot. The squad is made up of females from all around the country, each of whom is a state champion in her own right.
The Coach’s first rule for his girls is to disregard that they represent different states; he instructs them to forget their respective regional identities. They’re all representing their country, they’re now on the same team, and winning a hockey game is all about cooperation, not individual accomplishments.
His techniques are unique, and his team initially fights them, but you soon realize he’s the only one who can convince them to put their differences aside and work together.
The film Chak De India, written by Jaideep Sahni, is far from ground-breaking. It doesn’t break new ground, doesn’t tell a significantly different story, and isn’t exactly jaw-dropping in terms of tactics. However, it does feature a fairly “clean” narrative with all of the normal components of a good sports film.
In fact, Chak De India is what I’d call a textbook sports film; it has a great three-act structure and faithfully follows all of the basic storytelling conventions.
A set-up, a build-up, and a climax are all present. The picture, however, works brilliantly because it is done so effectively and because all of the parts come together so well.
Chak De India is a riveting film to watch, despite its slow pace, and much of its charm comes from the lovely scenes between the 16-odd females that make up coach Kabir Khan’s underdog team.
Most of them are lousy actors, yet they come off as lovable and appealing because the director relies on their natural instincts. Chitrashi Rawat, who plays the little Komal, and Tanya Abrol, who plays the tough Punjabi Balbir, are both outstanding.
When director Shimit Amin constructs those excellent confrontation and disagreement scenes between the girls, you don’t grumble too much because these clichés aren’t so much offensive as they are affectionate, and even though he throws around a bagful of cultural stereotypes, you don’t grumble too much because these clichés aren’t so much offensive as they are affectionate.
Finally, Chak De India keeps you hooked to your seat with its fantastic hockey scenes. It’s a sports film in the real sense of the term, and even if you don’t enjoy watching sports, you’re unlikely to be bored by it because it’s shot so spectacularly.
The World Hockey Championship scenes, which serve as the film’s conclusion, play out almost exactly as you would expect.
In the end, I think Chak De! India is an elite movie and is really enjoyable to watch.