Chak De India – very good

By Vidya Pradhan

030.JPG“A Shahrukh movie without a heroine?” was the first reaction of everybody I told about ‘Chak De India’. Certainly in recent years the superstar seems to have been stuck in his Rahul/Raj passionate lover persona, carefully crafted by the Chopras and the Johars. Even the negative roles he played early in his career were demented, obsessive, crazy-for-love characters which he performed with his customary flamboyance. Occasionally the star has veered into unfamiliar territory, but these efforts have so often been such resounding commercial failures (Swades, Paheli) that he has publicly admitted his nervousness with Chak De, which has him playing the coach of the Indian women’s hockey team. He doesn’t have one heroine, he has sixteen of them! Chak De is a traditional sports film, dealing with the issues of failure and redemption, team spirit, national integration (versus racial integration in American films), patriotism and girl power. It could have devolved into a clichéd mess, but in director Shimit( Ab Tak Chappan) Amin’s capable hands, it turns out to be a joyride of a film. Kabir Khan( Shahrukh, playing his first Muslim character ever?) is the star captain of the Indian men’s hockey team who makes a fatal mistake in the World Cup final against Pakistan. Banished to obscurity for 7 years, he resurfaces to take up the thankless job of coaching a ragtag team of girls for the Women’s Hockey World Cup. What follows is a typical sports fairy tale, but what sets Chak De apart is its character development. There is a small element of stereotyping – the brick wall unibrow from Punjab, the Haryanvi with her colorful language, the hot Mizo babe, the language impaired girl from Jharkand – but instead of becoming caricatures, the girls show spunk and emotion and make you care about them. The bitchiness, the bullying, all ring very true and make the hard-won camaraderie seem very believable. The hockey scenes are shot very realistically and add weight and depth to the movie. The World Cup scenes are particularly commendable as they look like they were shot with international hockey teams. Apparently, Chak De is loosely based on the true story of a failed goalkeeper on the Indian men’s hockey team who went on to coach a successful women’s team at the Commonwealth Games. The movie is really not about the coach but the players, and Shahrukh wisely plays it low-key and lets the hockey do the talking. He has very few moments to grandstand and he does it in his usual over-the-top style, but it fits the situation and his restrained moments are wonderfully sympathetic. There is absolutely no romantic angle to this movie, just sports from start to finish. Kids unfamiliar with the rules of hockey will catch up soon enough and there is plenty of dramatic tension to keep them hooked. There are a few inspirational songs but they are strictly background and do not intrude into the narrative. The real surprise of Chak De is the hockey team itself. Some of the women are apparently hockey players in real life and some are professional actors but apart from the slightly glossier looks of the actors, it is hard to tell them apart. They play their parts both on and off the field with conviction and with a degree of realism not found in typical Bollywood fare. I hate to recommend an experience in Naz8 with its dirty bathrooms and its overpriced popcorn, but Chak De is a movie to be seen on the big screen. It is great fun to be surrounded by cheering, hooting fans – the jokes seem funnier, the situations are more charged- and when there is pin drop silence in the dying moments of the girls’ final match against defending champions Australia, you know the movie is working. Sports movies rarely end in the defeat of the home team, but to the director’s credit, there is an element of uncertainty right up the very end. When the movie ended with Kabir Khan coming back home the audience stayed put in their seats, waiting to find out what happened to the girls( that is taken care of as the end credits roll). We left reluctantly when the lights came back on. Shahrukh needn’t worry – this patriotic film releasing around the 60th anniversary of India’s independence deserves to be a hit. Any movie that can interest you to such an extent about women’s hockey, a game that really nobody cares about anymore in India, is worth a watch. Don’t forget to take the kids. Oh, did I mention you get to see the trailer of ‘Aaja Nachle’, Madhuri Dixit’s comeback film? And if anyone knows exactly what ‘Chak De’ means, do let me know.

11 thoughts on “Chak De India – very good

  1. Shefaly

    ‘Chak de’ is a partial phrase from the original Punjabi phrase – chak de phatte – which means ‘go for it’ (loosely). Seems apt in the sports setting with a patriotic theme.

    Like

    Reply
  2. Subrat

    Chak De comes from Chak De Phatte. While the term loosely does mean ‘come on’ or ‘go for it’ (obvious from its usage), it traces its origins to the farms of Punjab. The motor which pumps water into the fields is normally underground and is covered with wooden planks (called phatte in Punjabi). When you want to turn on the motor, you were asked to ‘chak de phatte’ which meant turn the planks over. It was a sort of clarion call to get down to business. The term that followed this was ‘Nap de Killi’ which meant turn on the tap. Hence, these two terms are used together – “chak de phatte, nap de killi”. So there ends my small dissertation on Punjabi folklore (must admit I have never been to the fields of Punjab to hear this).

    Like

    Reply
  3. Vidya

    Thanks Subrat, that was a great explanation for the origin of the term..good to know. I was a little confused because I’ve also heard it used as ‘Chak de saare gham’ ( in Hum Tum)where the meaning seems to be to literally ‘chuck’ the sadness.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Subrat

    Vidya, it’s something that has exercised my mind as well. I think Prasoon Joshi possibly used the literal meaning of Chak De which based on the explanation above should be ‘let go’.

    Like

    Reply
  5. Deepa

    I read somewhere Chak De means ‘Bring it on’; Bring it on India, I guess.

    SRK’s first role as a Muslim
    (Amjad Ali Khan) was in Hey Ram. A very brief role though. Chak De’s Kabir Khan is his first leading role as a Muslim.

    Like

    Reply
  6. Shefaly

    @ Vidya: Actually the word ‘chak’ on its own in Punjabi means to throw away, and helpfully enough ‘chuk’ (‘u’ pronounced like ‘oo’ in foot) means to pick up. So ‘chak de saare ghum’ means lose the sorrow.. ‘Chuk le kaliyan’ will mean pick up the buds 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  7. Traveller

    The movie was surprisingly good and refreshing! The pace throughout was good, there were few melodramatic moments so common in such movies, and of course, the hockey was credible throughout. As for trailers, I saw one on Laaga Chunari Mein Daag that looks very promising (great cinematography from what little I saw).

    Like

    Reply
  8. Rahul

    It was certainly a good movie. For my 12 year old, hockey was ice hokey or street hokey…but after the movie hockey took on another respectable dimension as an international sports. The subtle note on hockey being an underdog to cricket, added to the final euphoria as well, despite most people on the theatre being cricket fans.

    Like

    Reply
  9. Deepa

    One os the most sensible movies I have seen in a long time. SRK is first-rate as Kabir Khan. This movie is so realistic, I am actually surprised and pleased it is a huge hit in India which is mostly partial to movies showcasing Bollywood excesses !

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s