Chak De India is a beautifully made film that makes you laugh, makes you cry, gives you goose bumps, and stirs up patriotism inside you. It is a film that every lover of good cinema must watch.
It is heartening to see Yashraj Films move away from their stereotypical mushy romances and sentimental family dramas. Sports, in itself, is not a popular genre in Bollywood. On top of it, Chak De India has no love angle even though it has Shah Rukh Khan playing the leading man alongside 16 new girls.
There is not a single dull moment in the film. From the word go, the movie grips you like a vice and keeps you riveted until the end credits roll. During this Chak De ride, you go through myriad emotions. You empathize with the pain of the protagonist, cherish the clashes and camaraderie of the girls, and you are filled with an uplifting, charged-up feeling as you see the underdogs rise to the occasion.
Chak De India keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though it is a sports-based film and not a thriller. The film’s story is simple and yet it carries so many undercurrents.
Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh), the best centre-forward in Indian hockey team, misses the crucial, last-minute penalty stroke against Pakistan and is blamed for the Indian team’s defeat in the finals. So much so, he is labelled gaddar (betrayer) by his own fellow countrymen. Disgraced and dishonoured for one momentary failure, Kabir Khan leaves his parental house with his mother and disappears into oblivion.
Seven years later he appears again, not as a player but as a coach of a bunch of girls in whom even the Hockey Federation has no confidence. Kabir Khan has just three months to coach and train these girls for the Hockey World Cup in Australia. The girls come from all over India, Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, North East and other states. On the outside, Kabir Khan is very strict with the girls. Through his toughness he wants to instil discipline and integrity in the team, something which is significantly missing.
Within the team, there is hardly any camaraderie. There are usual girlie fights and arguments. Somebody is egoistic, somebody too self-centred, somebody is hot-tempered and somebody is simply naïve. Using very unconventional methods, Kabir Khan manages to create a team spirit among the girls. But some differences remain, only to be sorted out in the World Cup tournament in Australia, which the team must win to make India proud. But Kabir Khan is fighting for more than pride for India. For him the victory would bring redemption (for his momentary failure 7 years ago) and reclamation of his lost honour. And when that moment of reckoning does come, he looks on with disbelief in his teary eyes.
Chak De India is not just a sports film. It is replete with myriad emotions. And the best part is that Shimit Amin tells the story very realistically, making it all the more believable. He also doesn’t bring any unnecessary dramatization into the story.
A constant thread of humour runs through the film’s narrative. The humour is vernacular, and genuinely funny at that. The funniest of the lot is the rustic Haryanavi girl Komal ( Chitrashi Rawat) and the hot-tempered Punjabi girl Balbir Kaur (Tanya Abrol).
After a long time – perhaps since Swades Shah Rukh gives a substantial reason to write something about his acting. The superstar doesn’t go overboard in his performance in Chak De, there is no quivering of lips and no heavy breathing. Using his facial expressions and intense eyes to his advantage, with utmost conviction SRK plays a man simmering and seething within. Undoubtedly, this one is a praiseworthy performance from the King Khan.
SRK isn’t the sole focus of the film. Ample footage is given to the girls. Shilpa Shukla (as the egoistic Bindia) delivers a laudable performance. She maintains a snooty, high-headed demeanor throughout the film. Sagarika Ghatge (as the attacking forward player Preeti Sabarwal) is convincing. Vidya Malvade (as the goalie) plays her part well.
Chak De India surpasses all the expectations A great deal of credit for this gripping film should go to director Shimit Amin, who never lets the technicalities, the cinematic style, or still better the visual beauty, overtake the essence of the story. Chak De India turns out to be a riveting film, the reason being excellent writing by Jaideep Sahni, well etched-out characters, brilliant performances by Shah Rukh, Shilpa Shukla, Sagarika Ghatge and Chitrashi Rawat and, last but not the least, superb direction by Shimit Amin.The movie has a number of intelligently conceived sequences . For instance, a sequence when the girl’s hockey team has to prove their mettle against the men’s team. The girls lose by a narrow margin, but they get an applause and salutation from male players. Or another sequence, when the girls bash up a bunch of eve teasers. These sequences and the last portions of the second half, when the crucial matches are played, evoke a flood of emotions among the audience.
At the end of the day, Chak De India is a deeply touching film that offers plenty for you to carry home with. Do yourself a favour, go and see this film. It is a must-watch.