Sports in Movies — Chak De India

My forever-favorite sports-movie is Remember the Titans (RtT) starring Denzel Washington, Will Patton and my recent crush, ‘Heroes‘ star, Hayden Panettiere. Of course, I call it a sports-movie because it is about football; but RtT is much more than just a sports-movie! It is a story of a coach fighting against racism, a story of father and daughter whose lives were the love of the game, a story of great friends and the story of a city that fought against the evils of racism riding on the passion for the game. Every single actor in the movie played exactly how (s)he was supposed to play his/her role; Washington and Patton delivered awesome, power-packed performances. The only downside of the movie is that it gets predictable at times, but the tight screenplay and beautifully written and delivered dialogs save you from any boredom at those few moments. And above all, it is based on a true story, thus very realistic.

I watched RtT about 5 years ago. The memories are still vivid.

So, with ‘Chak De India‘ (CDI) in the title of the post, why did I write about RtT? I’ll elaborate that later, but if you have watched both RtT and CDI, you might have guessed what I’ll say. The media is crazy about this movie these days, and whenever some Indian sports-person or team does well, or we demand them to do well, I get to hear the calls of “Chak De India”. S recommended me CDI this evening, apparently unaware of my hatred for “the man“. I would have skipped it, if it was for just any one of news channels and S; I had to give in for both together.

I watched CDI about an hour ago, and needless to say, the memories shall stay vivid for five years to come — for the wounds it left all over.

First about the director Shimit Amin‘s mistakes. Check out the following screenshot:

Chak De India Blooper
[Huge Mistake in CDI]

Could you guess the mistake? No?! Let me tell you in detail.

[premise 1] Start at the top of the image: POOL A.
[premise 2] Look at India’s position. Number 2.

This was the moment in the movie when India qualified for the final of the tournament. “premise 1” suggests that the tournament was not a round-robin tournament, i.e., there were more than one pools in the tournament. In which case, to play the final, the top teams of both the pools, considering for the moment that there were just two, must be in the final against each other. So, the tournament final must have been played between Australia, which is the top team of pool A, and the top team of the other pool, i.e., pool B, and not between India and Australia [premise 2]! Also, if it was indeed a round-robin tournament, there was no need of a “semi-final”. So, the director got it all wrong.

From the perspective of any serious sports fan, apart from that huge mistake, I hope I need not point out other technical wrongs of the movie. Heck! Why not? A sixteen member team to go into the world cup for a sport in which there are eleven playing on the field. I bet there are about thirty or so probables always. But that’s a minor glitch in the face of the next one, which is: the girls did not play any match — not even one single practice match apart from the all-deciding match against guys. How could they? How can sixteen probables be divided on two teams of eleven each?

The movie was predictable from the start, much more than RtT. That is because the plot follows RtT from the start till the end.

  • The coach was fighting for self-image: Denzel to get his place in society against racism, and Shahrukh against his traitor tag. “Religion card” is played very subtly in CDI, (don’t let me spell it out for you) and it is very unrealistic and ugly, yes, even for a work of fiction. Yes, there was a “traitor” in Indian sport, Azhar, but even he was interested more in money than anything else — especially not religion!
  • Uniting the team, in RtT against racism and in CDI against regionalism.
  • Social issues: racism in RtT and discrimination against women in CDI.
  • The worst enemies becoming friends for the team spirit: Gerry and Julius in RtT, and Preeti and Komal in CDI.
  • A team traitor: Ray in RtT and Bindiya in CDI. A fat kid to tackle the “rash playing” team in one of the important games: Louie in RtT and that Punjabi-speaking girl in CDI.
  • So on and on…

Now, I don’t know whether Amin and the story-screenplay writer of CDI indeed did an RtT adaptation to fit Indian social scene. And to be fair to them, let me mention that there were some differences too (I may sound intending pun): team losing first match in CDI (in RtT they won all). In CDI nobody got injured before the final. And the traitor angle was new!

The commentary of matches was way over the top. Right from the start of the movie, the commentators were just too confident and sounded like they already knew the outcomes of the matches. There could have been nothing more predictable than the final match — or at least the two of us did predict pass-by-pass and goal-by-goal outcome of the movie, so much, that at the point when penalty shootout was called, it became stale.

Indeed, not everything was wrong about the movie. The issues raised are really worth a lot of introspection on our part as a member of Indian society and as sports’ fans. The discrimination against women, and women eventually reigning supreme showing men what they’re really capable of is worth an ovation, and a standing ovation from me! The movie delivered in making an average sports fan what (s)he does wrong: judgments based on performances that do not last long enough on time-scale. Fans booed out Kabir Khan for just one mistake, and they sang praises of the same Kabir Khan when he won the world cup.

So… if you ask for an issue-based movie, CDI indeed is good in that it successfully raised some serious issues. And if you ask for a sports-movie, there are hardly many worse than this. But also take into account the fact that Bollywood makes very few sports-movies. And for a pleasant change, Shahrukh Khan was not loud and annoying (except for the scene before the final when he “delivers” the speech), though I will not rate his performance anywhere close to Denzel’s… never ever!

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