Kabir Khan lives a middle-class lifestyle along with his widowed mom in Delhi, India, and is the Captain of the Indian men's hockey team. He fails to score at the last tournament resulting in Pakistan winning the World Cup amidst allegations that he was more inclined toward his opponents due to his religion. Kabir and his mom move away and virtually disappear for seven years. Thereafter Kabir surfaces to be a Coach for the women's hockey team, consisting of 16 players from all over India, some of who do not communicate well. Kabir's disciplinarian style ends up offending the players, lead by the militant Bindia Naik, who decide not to participate unless he resigns amidst allegations that he is having an affair with soon to-be married Vidya Sharma, who he appoints as the new Captain. Things change after a brawl with eve-teasers at the local McDonald's, the girls accept Kabir, however, the Chair of the Indian Women Hockey Association, Tripathi, decides to pull out of the World Cup but ... Written by
Having originally planned to both not see Chak De and also to hate it, I went to see the first show and I now love it very much!!
Two nights ago I saw Kal Ho Naa Ho for the 100th time. I found it beautiful, as always, but also realized it never makes me want to cry. Chak De!, on the other hand, is relatively "plain" to look at, and understated (at least for Bollywood), and I felt that wonderful emotional brimming-up-but-not-quite-over time and again throughout the story.
The whole thing about this team of girls from all over India who have to be made into a team really works - you get to know enough about several girls to have a secure sense of the essence of each -- the one with the bad temper, the one whose husband wants her to come home and cook, the senior player who resents the new coach's control, the ones who are out for themselves -- and the problem each presents in relation to SRK's task of making a team out of a collection of individuals
Of course this is any coach's job, but I like the moral resonance with the sad back-story of Shah Rukh Khan's character. Kabir Khan, like the real Indian player on whom the story is based, is an Indian Muslim. He was unjustly accused of throwing a match to Pakistan, and lost his career. A team where all have the identity "India" is an actual team; implicitly I think a country with the identity "India" doesn't engage in persecutory projection and hatred toward a member perceived as "other."
A note about the photography, I like the use of a dusty tone for the first half of the movie, and then a much brighter color skin for the second half, when we leave India and practice fields and go to Australia. The girls' exposure to the bigness and luxury of the west was handled so nicely - we're given their pleasure in all that's new to their eyes--giant swimming pools, exercise machinery, lavish hotel buffets -- but in passing: the Bollywood Visual Excess machine is not in operation, and the shed has several locks on the door. At some official function, we get to see them all in saris and a bit of makeup, but here too it's all under control, they're all dressed alike and half of them hate it.
Shah Rukh is great. There is no sentimentality in the movie and his character is restrained. The music -- no "songs" -- is varied and good -- if I could do without the rap music (for life!!), I loved the Sufi refrain that turns up over and over, that seems to express SRK's character's anguish in separation, longing for reunion (with God).
I've always felt that sadness was quite nearby for Shah Rukh -- here he neither conceals nor dramatizes it, he just lets us feel it. On a more mundane note, though I love Shah Rukh in all his Karan-Johar-selected beautiful clothes, I found it relaxing to see him in a small number of normal coach's costumes, shirts, khakis, and blazers that appropriately looked bought off the racks in Macy's.
The movie really never hits a wrong note. It's also just wonderful in its feminist position. Generally speaking I feel just boredom and agitation at movie violence; in this one, when the girls beat up boys who'd been harassing them, I felt joy.
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