a ten from the American judge: Chak De India


I loved this movie so much.

I don't watch many sports movies, so the next comment is somewhat uninformed, but: I don't recall any other sports story having such a balanced, respectful approach to the question of how to encourage individuals to coalesce into a real team. I really appreciated the emphasis that the movie, via Khan, put on improving and relating to the larger communities to which the players belonged: each girl was a part of the team, but she was also part of womankind and India-kind. Each girl had something to give to - and receive from - each of these different overlapping and sometimes conflicting groups to which she belongs. (For a few of the characters, we saw even more bits of life to consider - family, boyfriend, and, in the case of Khan, the past. Of course most of us juggle all these pieces and more in our day-to-day lives, but I understand all of that couldn't fit in the movie.) Everyone had something to learn, and she did. Everyone had something to contribute, and she did. The movie did all this without obliterating the individual - no one was torn down in order that others might rise.

Another strength, I think, is that it nailed each cliché it indulged in.* It's a good thing, too, because if you're going to be unoriginal with your overall plot and character types, then you really need to play the old chestnuts in a relevant, meaningful, entertaining, and/or unique way - and Chak De India hit every one out of the park (pardon the metaphor mishmash). It was also surprisingly light on cheese (although maybe it's weaker on that front if you are more familiar with the regional stereotypes and how they tend to get treated in fiction than I am), with a lot of heart but very little melodrama. On that point, let me share that at intermission I sent Totally Basmatic a text message to say that Shahrukh was awesome (I believe I used all caps) and that sometimes I forget how much I like him and how effective he can be and am always delighted to be re-reminded. His and everyone else's performances were perfectly balanced, as was the whole movie: familiar but not redundant, engaging but not toying, inspiring but not preachy, indulgent but not lazy, sweet but not saccharine.

I wonder if the buoyancy of the excitement and communal good will of seeing this in the theater may lose its momentum when the movie is watched on the small screen. I hope not. I hope this movie will be beloved for years. It's an incredibly satisfying film; I don't know whom exactly to credit for that, so my hat is off to everyone involved. It's as though they, like the girls, knew they had a chance to do a good thing, and they made the very most of the opportunity. "Chak de" indeed!

Aside to people who play field hockey: what did it mean when the Indian men's team held out their sticks to the women's team and then they reciprocated? Respect? Truce? Bravo?

* It also avoided some I wouldn't have been surprised to see, like a badly-timed outburst from Khan when shaken by his ghosts, extended racist or other snotty remarks from the other teams, whispers of foul play, or someone overcoming a physical injury or a tragedy that befell them during the tournament. Wise choices, I'd say, as none of these would have particularly benefited the overall arc of "personal growth within larger communities" of the players and coach. There was one stereotype I was actually disappointed not to get, though: that arsehole hockey commissioner getting his comeuppance. Maybe credit for that is owed to shrewd writing: it was as though he was so uninterested in the women's team that having him around during the big matches, even by telephone, would have been inconsistent. At least we got our slow clap, though. I luuurve a good slow clap, and it was all I could do not to start one of my own at the end.


Kalyan said…
Yes it is perfect 10.Nice review

How often we see movie watchers (specially desis) disciplinedly sitting to the last title name on the screen ? Never , This is what I witnessed for the first time that people are reluctant to get up from their seats until they saw last title of the movie Chak De India on big screen.
My take on why this is a great film

Nitin said…
I found the movie very steorotyped. Preeti Sabhwarwal was too pretty :) .. There was no sportsmanship as such in the movie , didnt understand why vidya was made the captain. In the last take swapping of preeti and koman was expected. The northeast girls were treated northerasternly :) - the plum postings went to the pretty damsel :)

the movie was an entertainer. it has ample, but no over dose, of everything :)
Movie Mazaa said…
Hmm... so u loved it!!
So did I!

ggop said…
I must see it - everyone who has seen the movie has given it a must see review.
Indianoguy said…
Although every actor did a great job, my favorite is the girl, who played Bindia Naik. She is simply amazing!
Ashley said…
I definitely want to see this, soon!
Pri said…
i enjoyed it too, made me cry.
Maja said…
When I first heard about this movie, it sounded kinda like nothing more than a remake of Bend it like Beckham, and that first teaser (the rhyming one) didn't seem all that promising either so I'm thrilled that for once, my expectations were too small rather than too great. Can't wait for the DVD to come out so I can watch it too!
Anonymous said…
Actually, the capitalized words in that text were "AWESOME" (describing the film) and "DAMN" (describing SRK). You also called him "superwow" (lowercase). ;)
Indyana said…
OOH! I'm dying to see this movie....thanks to your the review, I'm in a hurry to watch it!
Kalyan - thanks for sharing your review. Now that I've finally seen the movie, I'm enjoying visiting others' sites to see what people had to say.

Nitin - yes, that swap was totally predictable, wasn't it? I didn't mind too much though because I enjoyed it. I think that's what made this movie so delightful - that it used common, even stereotyped (as you point out), elements, but did so in a charming way.

MM - you know it! :)

ggop, Ashley, and Indyana - run, don't walk! It's so fun.

Indianoguy - they were all good, weren't they? How often can we say that of a movie?

Pri - me too! I tried to be subtle about it, though.

Maja - it so easily could have been that. But it's so much more - or "else," anyway. It's completely familiar and very satisfying. You'll love it, I'm sure. It's a prime example of why stock plots and characters exist - because they resonate with us in some way, and when they're done well, the resonance shines through. When they're done badly, they're boring.

TB - rat.
useless fellow said…
Beth, I absolutely loved the movie. And what I and many others like me felt was that SRK was more of a character Kabir Khan here than SRK, like Swades. And whenever he gets this opportunity he shows us he is an actor first, a SuperStar later. Other than SRK two of my fav Chak De girls were Bindiya Nayak and the shorty Komal Chautala
Unknown said…
I Not-naive.....
awesome movie.. like the movie very much because movie was completely balanced no extra dose was there ,everything was in continuous rhythm.srk did a gr8 job and the chak de girls really chak de the movie.preety sabarwal was awesome. waiting for the DVD to come out.everyone must see this movie.................
Kim T. said…
Totally agree with your review! It's taken me a little while to warm up to SRK, but I'm really starting to get it now. Love the beard and they only let him get away with the melodrama the once (and it was pretty appropriate...the tears welling up after the win). I was very disappointed that the story didn't do more with Mary and Molly. And am I awful to have hoped for a little romance with Kabir and Bindia...the tension was certainly there. Sometimes I like to add little epilogues to movies in my mind...and I think it's possible they might have ended up together.

This film reminded me a lot of the Disney film Miracle with Kurt Russell about the 1980 US Olympic hockey win over Russia. Just as Kurt as the coach there forced his team to realize they were playing for their country and not themselves anymore, so did SRK as Kabir. I'm a huge sports movie fan and this film is completely formulaic, but who cares! This is girl power done right!
Anonymous said…
That is IT-- I have read 5 other completely positive reviews on this film, and yours is just the icing on the cake. I have to buy this film... right when I can sell my old dance dress/get a job/do something else in order to get the money to do so.

I especially like what you said on the cliches-- I personally don't mind them if they're presented in a interesting and/or fresh manner, and that appears to be the case here.
Anonymous said…
My 6 & 9 yo daughters & I love this movie--we just watched it again this week for the fifth or sixth time. Great example of girl power, teamwork, and overcoming self-doubt to outdo yourself. Plus SRK!

Just found your blog, btw, and look forward to reading more of your reviews!

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