Chak De! India on the big screen

I’m reaaaally behind with my “film diary”, so I guess I should start with that before I forget what I’ve been watching :]


Chak De! India (India, 2007)

Seen: a few times now, but most recently on Saturday, 8th November - it’s the first time I’ve seen it on the big screen and it makes quite a difference :)
Runtime: 153′
Release Date: 10th August 2007 in India and other civilized countries, it’ll be released in Poland on DVD in December (the cinema thing was just a special screening, not a regular release)
Polish Distributor: Epelpol
Director: Shimit Amin
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Chitrashi Rawat, Shilpa Shukla, Sagarika Ghatge, Tanya Abrol
Production House: Yash Raj Films
Plot: A Muslim field hockey player is accused of selling out the World Cup Final to Pakistan. For years he is estranged and practically banished from his village and former life. He comes back as the coach of the (very under-invested) Indian female field hockey team and tries to prove his loyalty to India.


Impressions In Short
As this is in many ways a quieter film than most commercial Bollywood productions, I didn’t expect to feel a huge difference between cinema and DVD and yet I did :) Most of the stuff that seemed a little exaggerated to me on a TV-size screen worked great in the cinema. The camerawork - particularly the way the matches were shot - looked absolutely spectacular.

Some Details
It’s a film that re-watches very well (my mum is living proof, I think she watched it about 5 times in one week initially and if you’re wondering - she did come to the cinema with me too *grin*).
I love it for a couple of reasons… Firstly, it’s an extremely cleverly constructed story (Hollywood thinks so too). The plot may seem like a formulaic sports film at first glance (”we have to work as a team”, “lets make our country proud” etc.), but it uses the formula for totally different ends. They’re actually not telling the story of a field hockey team, it’s the story of India - a country that is extremely divided by gender, religion and ethnicity. Even when they get all patriotic in the film it’s never the sort of aggressive kind of patriotism that sometimes Hollywood films have. Like for example there’s a scene when Kabir Khan is intensely looking at the Indian flag being hauled up and after a while of this he simply says it’s the first time he sees somebody white hauling up the Indian flag *grin* It’s a nice kind of patriotism - one that says something along the lines of “we’re very far from perfect, but we have to believe in this country - that’s how it will become better”.
Also I love the style of it. It’s a sort of “No Man’s Land” kind of style ;) It’s not commercial, I mean not really… It’s too unglamorous for that. Everyone’s playing with hardly any make-up, it’s lighted in a way so you can see the skin textures, the sweat and so on. Also from a purely Indian perspective, if it was commercial they’d be dancing and lip-syncing and there’s none of that. It also has a stronger message than is normal for a purely commercial film.
At the same time it actually is commercial ;) - it’s a commercially successful film with a very commercial star in a film by one of Bollywood’s biggest production houses and while the cinematography is naturalistic in style, it is also very visually spectacular.
It’s also great in that after the slow start it really holds you - it’s like a good thriller ;) The plot always has some sort of small twists, something to keep your attention. For example one of my favourites (I don’t think this one is a spoiler) is that initially Kabir Khan sets out to make the whole team hate him.
Another amazing achievement of the film is that even though there are 14 girls on screen, they all have very distinct and colourful personalities. All the actresses are great and totally hold your attention. You really don’t need Shahrukh there ;) Although it’s a great film to watch for Shahrukh as well since it’s a very different part comparing to what he normally does - much more restrained.

Yes! *grin* And it’s an almost unconditional yes - doesn’t matter if you’re into Bollywood or not. Safe even for the people who don’t like Bollywood-style romance and dance numbers - there aren’t any in this one.
I don’t think you need to be into Shahrukh either, though if you find his mannerisms annoying you might find the scenes before he becomes a coach a little tough going - that’s where he does most of his hamming in the film. After that the only hamming he does is pretty much restrained to the speech-making scenes. What’s more the film ends up focusing more on the girls than on him, so unless he really annoys the hell out of you, you should be safe ;)
The only “hiccup” is that I think you need to know a little bit about India to get it. Maybe not that much, but for example the beginning when Kabir Khan gets accused of betraying his country so out of the blue may seem ridiculous and far-fetched, when in fact such things happen very easily in India (that bit is based on the story of a Muslim cricket player who had just that happen to him).

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