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Chak de India!

A lot of political jingoism and patriotism marked this 15th August week, more so because it was our 60th anniversary of independence. Everyone and their daddy came out with some stuff which could be used to loosen the common man’s pockets by pulling on his patriotic strings. I, for one, don’t mind parting with a few green bills but at least give me some bang for my buck. My search for the bang took me to Chak De India last Friday which released in that happening week.

Now what can one expect from a movie which stars Shah Rukh Khan as the coach of the Indian Hockey team full of never-seen-before girls, and even has him rapping away in one of the songs. SRK being the coach, would call the shots obviously and lead the team single-handedly to victory because of his hard-hitting mmeh mmmeh dialogues of course. The girls would just happen to be there under the shadow of the mighty SRK. It would be SRK all the way leading the country of a billion people to their 60th year of mindless celebrations over an extremely important event in the history of India which is probably more fondly remembered by the common man as the day we got the freedom to urinate on the walls of any government building without being reprimanded by the British.

But boy, was I glad that I was wrong (about the movie, that is!)! This movie was not anything I mentioned above and turned out to be pretty much the bang I was looking for!

For starters, it’s probably the first sports movie about India that takes up real issues and attempts to capture the struggle of sportsmen (actually sports-women) in a team sport. Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander was another exciting movie of this genre that I can recall but even that was about cycling, an individual sport, and individual excellence is not really something to write about in this country with probably the largest number of individual superstars.

Chak de India strives to showcase the struggle of a man from the point he was disgraced by the people of his country to his well deserved moment of joy and pride when he helps bring the Women’s World Cup home. And it’s the journey between these two points in his life that is more exciting than the final result that makes the movie such a treat to watch. While the fact that a movie from the Yash Chopra bandwagon looked at real problems in hockey hit me as a pleasant surprise, what made the deal a whole lot sweeter was the little nuances that the film brings out about the typical Indian mindset not just towards the game but also towards each other and ofcourse towards public figures who are made demi-gods in moments, crushed to the ground equally sooner and then returned back to their seats among the stars of the celebrity sky with as much as just one flash of brilliance. 

The plot is loosely based on the life of Mir Ranjan Negi, the Indian goalkeeper in the 1982 Asiad Games Final where India lost to arch rival Pakistan by a whopping 7-1. Negi was made the scapegoat for that defeat and the humiliation made him vanish from the hockey scene for years only to return as the coach of the Indian Women’s Hockey team and lead them to victory in the Commonwealth games in 2002.

The movie does add some twists of its own for adding drama. Negi becomes Kabir Khan so that there can be that extra sting in the humiliation. 20 years is reduced to 7 so that Shah Rukh does not have to get the “Anupam Kher hair style” to match the real coach! But it is the girls that represent the teething issues facing Indian Hockey today and in doing that, carry the movie not only on their athletic shoulders but their hockey sticks, whims and fancies, bitching and most of all their enthsiasm for the sport. Representing different states and teams, the girls intuitively refuse to break away from their regional identities, causing rival groups to be formed – an issue that has always haunted the Indian teams. They have always been accused of not playing as a team. The film portrays the differences with a generous sprinkle of humour. The coach is aware of all that and works on the team building aspect. The girls learn the importance of team work painfully. But as they learn the all important art of team building, they also learn about their own  weaknesses and strengths. It is the beauty of the girls’ journey from them being the best player in their states to them being the best players for the Indian team. The other ills plaguing all sports in this country viz. politics in associations, sports bodies being lead by people with no interest in the betterment of facilities and the charm of the foreign trip is also subtly shown.

While sports movies are the best teachers for lessons in life, they don’t help much if the sports is not good enough. Chak de India has elegantly and realistically portrayed hockey matches and players. 

But the most surprising part of the movie was that SRK serves as the lowest common denominator and, for a change, doesn’t mind lying low when the scene demands so. His greatest contribution to the movie has been his restraint in his acting which makes him affable yet again to a fan-following he lost somewhere in his quest to become bigger than Big B. Also, to be fair to Shah Rukh and his dream of doing something for the sport he wanted to play at the highest level, his presence itself means a lot in terms of the widespread media attention that the movie is getting. It would be difficult to get the audience to the theatres without the attraction of SRK!  

If I see something missing from this movie, it would surely be the fact that it misses out on a major reason for the poor showing of the Indian Hockey team in tournaments around the globe – the Astro Turf. Players in India have always played on grass and most do so till they reach the national level. It is only beyond this phase that the players get to play on the surface which players around the world take all their life to get used to but the Indian players probably get only a fraction of that time to get their act together. Indian hockey was world champion in the days of yore because they played on the same surface all through but Astro Turf takes the game to a totally different level in terms of the stamina of players and the pace of the game.

Iqbaal and Lagaan were outstanding movies about sports too but this one is in a different league. This is a coming-of-age Bollywood movie which showcases recent history that most of us were not even aware of; and it does so in a pleasant yet realistic way coming as a breath of fresh air. The movie sure revived my interest in hockey. I am sure it would have done this for a lot of others as well.

Indian Hockey players of the past were so good that there is actually a skill named after them – the Indian Dribble. Let’s hope this movie can inspire some young blood to bring some of that glory back to India.

Chak de India!
Here is the news item related to the actual Commonwealth Games that the Indian Hockey Women’s team won under Mir Ranjan Negi. The actual win was a bit controversial. Read on!
India Deny England Gold

A few news articles highlighting the problems in the Indian Hockey camp:
1) Egos drag hockey team into sticky mess
2) Killer Instinct: Do we really lack it?
3) Dhanraj has attitude problem, says coach

Last, but not the least, the man himself, Mir Ranjan Negi
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20070814/cth3.htm#2

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Filed under Bollywood, Hockey, India, Movies, Shah Rukh Khan, Sports, Yash Chopra

How Cute Is This?

I am a silent person; I talk less; gives me a load of gravity, as a friend of mine likes to call seemingly serious and thinking people (note the stress on seemingly, please);  but that also often makes people assume that I am a good listener, a silent observer.

And observe, I do (Oh yes…!). My most recent observation has been about the frequency of certain words in our day-to-day language. The current Gen X or Gen Y or Gen whatever is very prolific in the use of words like “cool” (sounding more like kyool), “amazing” and ofcourse “like”.

Now, the reason why like is used is to add a more familiar and often funny description to what would otherwise be a mundane tale. So instead of saying he is so quick you would say…wow..he’s like a bolt of lightening. When used selectively, it adds to the flavour of the conversation and makes you look pretty articulate. All good things. But when you sprinkle “like” in your language such that it comes up after every 17 seconds of blabber, it becomes a pain in the “you know where”. If you haven’t had the fortune of meeting such a person, just check out Aishwarya Rai in Dhoom-2 where she immortalizes (more like beats to death) the “like” way of boring your audience to crap they anyway see on the streets.

Now, even though this form of usage is irritating, it does not hurt another person’s feelings. But there is one word which I have observed to be more used (read: misused) than any other to promote hypocrisy and malice in this world. Hypocrisy – you ask. Oh yes, such horrifying inferences (and maybe consequences) and such a harmless word – “CUTE”.

Yes, cute – this is the word that you will see on every girl’s lips (if you manage to look beyond her Revlon). They see a filthy street dog with flies circling around his wounded leg and out it comes – “Oh, he’s so cute … how did he get hurt?”. They meet an average looking guy in a party who compliments them “You are looking beautiful” and the never-keep-quiet hormone in them blasts out a response ‘ Oh, you are also looking cute”. Everything in the world, that they either do not understand or do not care about, is cute. You smile, you are cute; you get angry, you are cute; you laugh, you are cute; you cry, you are cute – If that’s what people say to you, you MUST be cute. And it should be pretty clear to you that you can never be anything else in life. Not handsome, not sexy, not beautiful, not clever, not macho, not brave, not sensitive – because all you can ever be is “Cute”.

Don’t really believe me? Well, how cute!
Such is the widespread inference of insult from this word that a car manufacturer in the US has come up with a slogan for its latest car launched in the market. “Anything but cute”. Check out their ad below.

Need more proof of this soon-to-be widely accepted theory? Look at some of the biggest names from Bollywood and see if they fit the “cute” mold.

Himesh Reshammiya
This is a man who has aroused so much interest that I need to write a separate piece about him. But for now, just look at the trailers from his movie “Aap Kaa Surroor”. The man’s eyes have so much passion and hope that when he talks to the camera about his “super-duper-hit” debut movie that even movie critics are calling him ‘brave’ because he knows he will be mocked at. He is making a fool out of himself in the movie but a man like this cannot be called foolish. After all, you do tap to his catchy beats and swing to his nasal ‘ooooooooooo’. So what do you call a man who seems to be doing a movie just because he is in love with his own passion – ofcourse cute! 🙂

Shilpa Shetty
Now who on earth calls our hamari pyaaree Shilpa cute when they talk about her? Before she won Big Brother, we did not even talk about her, forget calling her “our hamari pyaaree “! Anyhow, now that we do talk of her, we (as in those who like her) call her sexy, beautiful, raapchik, maal, mast figure, amazing energy dancer (that’s my personal addition), etc etc etc (oh that was another thing we called her before Big Brother 🙂

Those who don’t like her so much would call the entire country of India crazy for going bonkers over winning a stupid gameshow which she got paid to enter! (something to the tune of Rs. 3 Crores!; if that were crazy, India’s poverty problems wouldn’t be on the list of every Finance Minister). These people would also call her a lucky Be-otch or some rather unprintable adjectives (&^*@&#^$&*#^$@).

But have you ever heard someone call her “cute”? No, because cute is for people who have nothing else to be spoken about. It is the best description for a LOSER! (Himesh, are you listening?) This ought to be in big letters with sparkling lights all around it (Las Vegas style).

Sunil Shetty
Another Shetty here but, unlike our hamari pyaaree Shilpa, Sunil hasn’t had many accomplishments. I was about to say – unlike Shilpa he hasn’t been lucky – but then I paused, and thought, how else would you explain a person of his drop dead (I mean literally) looks, acting skills comparable to Shah Rukh Khan, and a disarming (pun intended) charm becoming a Bollywood hero? Anyway, back to the point, if you were to meet Sunil and say something about him, you would say he is a very strong macho man.

But if you imagine him without his macho body (I will make it easy for you – imagine him with Abhishek Bachchan’s body ), what would you call him? Handsome? …ahem …sexy? hmmm …naah …how about ..umm..ahem …cUTE? BINGO! With eyes as deep as a dried up well and a singular expression policy (look at him in Herapheri and Mohra without volume – you can’t tell that he played a macho hero in the first and a comedian in the second….lovely …o wait ..was it the other way around? Hehe … you see what I mean). It happens with Sunil – he is so cute! 🙂

Esha Deol
What do you feel when you look at this girl? Now before you answer that, just wait. There are some rules. You can’t call her macho, muscular, manly, nor can you say she doesn’t know good classical dance. You also cannot say that she has a wooden face when it comes to acting, that she does not have the oomph her mother had in her acting, that she does not have the humour that her father had, that her brother Bobby Deol has better hair than her, that she is lucky not to have too much in common with her other brother Sunny Deol and that she reminds you of Amelie Mauresmo. So you follow the rules and say that you respect her as she is, that her acting is nice, and ofcourse, that she looks really “cute”; especially when she dances in Tauba Tauba song from the movie Kaal.

Preity Zinta
She is a very beautiful girl (let’s call her a lady now that she celebrated her 30 something b’day recently), very sweet dimples, bubbly acting – overall very cute! This is probably an exception rather than the rule. I say that because no matter what she does, she does not look sexy. Remember the song Jiya Jale from Dil Se – she tried to look hot and sensuous in that song but what she looked could most appropriately be described as cute. So, you see, in a way, cute still goes with failure – for she was failing at what she was trying to do! She’s tried it all, short skirts, ultra short skirts, towel scenes and what have you. Even Yash Chopra, the king when it comes to making the sexiest scenes with actresses, could not do that for her in (what was that movie) Veer Zaara. At least that’s what I can tell from the trailers of that movie; ‘cos I could not go through more than 3 minutes of that movie. And believe me, I can see Yash Chopra and Karan Johar kind movies, but that one, well, as they say, no one is perfect. Not even Yash Uncle – but at least he tried, that’s cute! 🙂

Vivek Oberoi
Every man must have this question – what did Aishwarya Rai like in Vivek Oberoi? This cannot even be a multiple choice question. This can, at best, be a radio button question! With choices like his stupid acting or his narration skills (how he narrated how Salman threatened him to the journos). And remember one recent movie that won a large number of awards and critical acclaim least year – Omkaara! The movie is remembered for all kinds of roles – Saif’s role ofcourse, then Om bhaiyya, Kareena’s beautiful acting and even Sarju’s role (the guy with Saif in the first scene). But does Mr. V figure in all this? Nopes. So, probably that is why all girls who like him (I have bever heard of a guy saying he likes Vivek Oberoi – am representing the straight guys :). OK, maybe I am being too mean – he may not be a total zero at acting. And he might be a sensitive guy to have impressed Ash. He must have told her how he tries so hard to act and make an impression; and how he will protect her from Salman (now even he would know he is lying there …); and how they will make a cute pair. So, what would you call such a guy? Cute, eh? 🙂

Karan Johar
It’s the Nth Filmfare Awards night and Karan Johar steps up on the stage to present a special feature on his movie “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” and ends it with tears in his eyes and these words on his lips “It’s all about loving your parents”. Ravi Chopra made a bigger parents tear-jerker in Baghbaan. More parents asked their kids to watch Baghbaan than K3G and yet Ravi Chopra didn’t come up crying on stage for a movie he made. Karan Johar looks more comfortable in an interview with Kareena and Rani rather than when he has Sunny and Bobby Deol as his guests. He admits that he can make only the same kind of movies because that’s all he knows – human relationships. And I guess most of his relationships start and end with Shah Rukh Khan. So, what do you call him? A cute guy?

Abhishek Bachchan
In the pre-Yuva days, there was absolutely nothing that this guy could prove to the normal everyday guys. Girls ofcourse did like him a lot – they called him cute but then they had a lof of, so to say, evidence to prove their claim. “His eyes are so deep, so lovely … hee hee hee …his smile is ..oh so sweet …and the way he dances … ooooh” and so on and so whatever they went. While I find little logic in what was said about him, there is a difference here in the cute. It comes out naturally and there are more things to talk about. So this guy wasn’t a total loser; well, anyway, when your father is “like” the biggest super star the country has ever seen, it takes more than just cute to screw things up!

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Filed under Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood, Dhoom, Dhoom-2, Dodge Caliber, Esha Deol, Himesh Reshammiya, Karan Johar, Movies, Preity Zinta, Sarcasm, Shilpa Shetty, Sunil Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Yash Chopra