Striker is the kind of film that fills you with regret. There is skilful direction here, some nicely etched moments and commendable performances and yet the film never gathers enough momentum to make an impact. Striker never becomes the film it could have been.
Striker is the story of Surya, played by Siddharth, a poor boy distinguished by one talent – a fierce ability to play carrom. Unfortunately this puts him on the radar of Jaleel Bhai, played by Aditya Pancholi, the local goon who runs gambling rackets in Malwani, the far-flung suburb of Mumbai, where Surya lives.
Surya resists the temptation to gamble with his talent but when fate deals him some cruel blows, he finds himself across a carrom board playing for serious money. Eventually Surya’s entanglement with Jaleel Bhai, ends as it must, in destruction and violence.
Director Chandan Arora delves into the fascinating under belly of a seemingly innocuous sport.
Shooting mostly in locations around Mumbai, he creates a textured atmosphere. Mumbai’s claustrophobic spaces and its pressure cooker environment with everyone on the make is nicely captured.
Arora’s tutelage under Ram Gopal Varma shows in the numerous intriguingly grim faces that pop into the frame. He even resuscitates Pancholi, who makes a hulking, meaning bhai.
Siddharth whom we last saw in Rang De Basanti, is also very good as the angst-ridden Surya who plays his life out on the board. But the surprise here is Ankur Vikal, Slumdog Millionaire’s Mamman, who plays Surya’s friend Zaid. Zaid is a constantly grinning opportunist whose beatific smile can’t disguise his death wish. Zaid says that he has grown up under the shadow of swords and gambles big but eventually the odds catch up with him.
But all of this talent is let down by the film’s weak and bewilderingly meandering script, also co-written by Arora.
Striker goes back and forth between 1992 and the 1980s. I’m not sure that this movement adds anything to the film. But worse, the plot seems to randomly lurch from one point to another without adding up to a larger whole.
Events don’t unfold organically, they seem patched on. So Surya has two romantic sub-plots that are largely feeble.
His voice-over, which links up the various years is so insistent that it becomes annoying. And beyond a point, the various bhais and carrom games and deals blur into tedium. Even at two hours, Striker feels too long.
Eventually then, Striker just isn’t compelling enough for a trip to the theater. But there are many good things here. So I recommend that you wait for the DVD. (NDTV)