A very important aspect of the film, which actually is the left hook, is blindly overlooked by Rajkumar Hirani and Madhavan, producers of the film. I fault them here and not the writer Sudha Kongara because these here are intense artistes, both proud of the fields they represent: one an actor and the other a director.
The scene I am talking about comes towards the end. But before that an explanation on the left hook: The left hook, figuratively speaking, is that surprise punch that comes all-of-a sudden, towards the end, that floors the opponent. It could also be delivered in a speech!
Madhi has reached the final in an International Boxing Championship. The whole world has seen her moving up to the final round as her bouts got her huge publicity, being an underdog. For the final, the whole of India is making preparations to view it, but when she goes for her bout, to weigh in, she is simply told that her name is not on the list.
This has to be the laziest bit of writing to ‘gain momentum’. I mean, how can a finalist’s name be missing in an international tournament when the whole world is watching? Turns out that the head of the Indian Boxing Federation, who has a penchant for girls, did the damage to India and her coach Adi, with whom he has a long-standing animosity. Moreover, the place does not look like an international venue at all.
Things get sorted out and Madhi fights. But that whole scene takes away from the lukewarm build-up to the tournament.
I say lukewarm because the graph of the girl, who is a fisherwoman, who goes to the top level in boxing might be a good story on paper, but the depiction on screen leaves fascinating elements out. There’s no grit, the coach is tough no doubt, but that element of inspiring the protege is missing. It’s just like ‘I found a talent, now I will nurture it’ kind of story. There is that something that makes a fight/sports flick great that is missing. It was there in CHAK DE and to an extent in MARY KOM.
Adi (R Madhavan) is a retired boxer who has been wronged all his life. His wife left him, he was wronged in the ring and now as a coach, he is being wronged again and is being shunted to Chennai where there is minimal boxing. That is like his ‘Kaala Paani‘.
But Adi comes across Madhi and he sees in her a potential champ. Hesitantly she agrees and the two hit the training road. All throughout, we see that she is more khadoos (unnecessary brashness) than her coach whom she calls master. In between we are shown politics in sports over selection and exploiting of the weaker sex. Zakir Hussain as the head of the Boxing Federation is this former boxer who has an on-going feud with Adi and is also known to call young girls to his room.
Madhavan has beefed up well for his character but Kongara does not give him screen time to explain his ‘khadoos’ state of mind. She just rushes through with him in the first few minutes to establish his character. Moreover, his going after Madhi is not displayed with the passion a coach sees in his ward. It’s more acting, less character. Ritika Singh who plays Madhi, and who is also a professional boxer, does not display that steeliness in mind and body on screen, she is slack in her body language even during her fights. She also runs through her part, without pausing for effect.
Nassar is the gem of this movie coming out with yet another class act. Through him you learn the meaning of a pause in acting, exploiting facial muscles to depict an emotion and body language.
I was particularly impressed with the music by Santhosh Narayanan which is far from the current trend of ‘bang bang’ sound, applied to any and every song. It’s easy on the ears and has soul.
SAALA KHADOOS is nowhere in the league of a good sports film, but considering the release it is lined up against this week, it is definitely worth a watch.
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