Shimit Amin's film has to be one of the best sports films to come of India, though really, that's not saying much as sports films are generally neglected in this part of the world. However, I was keen to see how this product from the US returned director of 'Ab Tak Chappan' would turn out, and I must say I was quite satisfied. Set in the backrooms of the Indian Women's Hockey world, the film is a cliched story about a disgraced India ex-captain, who returns from exile to lead a ragtag, fractional team of no-hopers to the title of the World Championships. Its the treatment, however that should come in for high praise. Fast paced sports action, dollops of emotional drama and a fresh bunch of actors/hockey players make this film enjoyable. The move to enlist the services of hockey players rather than actors (barring a few exceptions), seems to have been an inspired one as it makes the story entirely believable. Most of the stereotypes are revisited - inter state rivalry, the team bullies, girls being stereotyped according to their origins (a scene where a girl from Andhra Pradesh is termed a 'Madrasi') - however, the treatment saves them from getting boring and repetitive.
Special mention should be made of Shahrukh Khan. The star delivers one of his finest performances in recent times. He holds the film together and his quiet confidence pervades the entire film. We hope we see more of this side of him in subsequent outings as well... but with Om Shanti Om in the works, it looks like we might have to wait a while.
A word of praise for the film's music. It remains in the background and doesn't jar the proceedings. The songs are some of Salim-Suleiman's best, all aptly placed throughout the film. I only wish the title track was sung by Daler Mehendi instead! Direction is good as well and Amin shows he's capable of handling completely diverse genres with ample ease. Jaideep Sahani's screenplay is also one of the stars of the film. Tight, smooth and flows like a charm. A high energy outing, worth a watch.