Yash Raj Films’ latest release “Chak De India” has won hearts worldwide. The inspirational story of the coach taking his girls hockey team to the pinnacle of world hockey has touched the chords of viewers all across the world.
The film also has received excellent mainstream acclaim. Reproduced below are some of the international reviews of “Chak De India”.
Bottom Line: Indian sports film makes telling points even as it entertains.
By Kirk Honeycutt
Aug 17, 2007
"Chak De India" is new wave Bollywood at its best, a Hindi-language film from a Mumbai studio that shows the influence of American and foreign films.
It has none of what film critic Peter Rainer has called the "Busby Beserkley" dance numbers, and there isn't any boy-girl romance. Rather, "India" is a sports movie -- something of a cross between "Bend It Like Beckham" and "A League of Their Own" -- about a disgraced coach (Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan) who leads an Indian girls' field hockey team toward a World Cup.
Former editor Shimit Amin, making his second film as a director, spent years working on American indie films. This shows in his determination to blend a character-driven story with Bollywood emotions.
The opening-night film of the recently concluded Indian Splendor film festival in Los Angeles, “India” already has opened in India and North America. Unfortunately, the film has been steered into the usual Indian-American cinemas here rather than braving a few mainstream theaters where it can reach out to a crossover audience. The film could certainly engage non-Indian viewers if its marketing played to the feminist sports angles; it certainly has lots to say about racism and misogyny in Indian society. In the final moments of an India-Pakistan hockey game, Kabir (Khan), the Indian team captain, elects to take a penalty shot. When the ball barely skips over the top of the net, resulting in India's loss, rumors immediately spread that Kabir, a Muslim, was "playing for Pakistan." Despite absolutely no evidence, the media and fans take up that chant, and soon he and his mother must abandon the family house.
Seven years later, Kabir re-emerges to ask for a job as coach of an Indian girls' hockey team. No other coach will touch the assignment. The girls recruited are top players from their individual states, but they come with different languages, ethnicities and prejudices, making it nearly impossible to mold them into an Indian team.
A broad-shouldered, rough-talking Punjabi girl can barely tolerate a tiny village tomboy who can dribble like crazy. Her Punjabi language is understood by the Hindi speakers but not by the teammate who speaks Telugu. The two girls from Mizoram and Manipur in the northeast, near Tibet, suffer endless slights because of their Asian looks.
A girl engaged to an egotistical cricket player is determined to score all the goals to prove she is a sports hero, too. Consequently, she never passes the ball to the other forward. A devious though seasoned Maharashtran girl openly rebels against the coach. First she tries to get him fired, then to seduce him.
All of these dramas take place over grueling practice sessions and hard-fought matches on the road to the World Cup in Australia. The screenplay by Jaideep Sahni carefully delineates the various rivalries and animosities, sparing the poor coach none of the agony of putting out the constant brush fires among battling teammates.
This film is from a new studio established by Yash Chopra, a leading figure in Bollywood production for 40 years, so technical credits are first rate with excellent cinematography, quicksilver editing, musical montages of practice and a fine use of locations. "India" is definitely Bollywood, ashamed of neither sentimentality nor predictability. Yet its sharp-eyed view of Indian society makes for a world of difference from old-style, sugar-coated Bollywood films.
New York Times
MOVIE REVIEW | 'CHAK DE INDIA'
By ANDY WEBSTER
Published: August 11, 2007
The making-of-a-team sports movie is a timeworn genre, and yet "Chak De India" ("Go, India!") finds new variations. Though the game here is field hockey, those fondly recalling the United States soccer team's first-place finish in the 1991 Women's World Cup will find a lot to like.
Of course, there are conventions. Kabir Khan (the assured Bollywood veteran Shah Rukh Khan) is a former player for India's national field hockey team who missed a fateful play against Pakistan, costing a championship and making him a pariah. Seven years later, he is hired to coach the nation's women's hockey team, giving him one more shot at a title.
The players, from states all over India, are a fractious lot, including a tomboy (Chitrashi Rawat) whose father fears she will never marry; a forward (Sagarika Ghatge) whose boyfriend, a cricket superstar, wants her to quit the team and live in his shadow; a newlywed goalie (Vidya Malavade) whose in-laws expect her to stay at home; and a haughty, seasoned player (Shilpa Shukla) who needles the coach.
When leering boys at a McDonald's harass them, a girls-against-boys melee erupts, but the coach doesn't interfere, knowing the team will prevail - and find its spirit. From there, it's on to the women's hockey championships in Melbourne, Australia.
The director, Shimit Amin, strikes a buoyant, propulsive tone, replacing the customary Bollywood production numbers with exhilarating musical montages of team practice. For his part, Mr. Khan, to his credit, lets his co-stars' youthful charisma carry the movie. He also laudably portrays a man who vigorously and unabashedly advocates the advancement of women.
In fact, the film's greatest merit is its commentary on sexism in India. As it should, "Chak De India" gives the women, in the closing credits, the last word.
By - David Chute
GO CHAK DE INDIA The inspirational go-for-the-gusto sports movie is such a staple genre of global cinema that nitpicking about the latest rip-off is a waste of energy. The only point worth making about the propulsive Chak De India (Let’s Go, India), the second feature directed by Shimit Amin (after the blistering Nana Patekar police thriller Ab Tak Chhappan [56 So Far]), is that it weaves its familiar story with some fresh textures and even manages to invest the conflict on the field with a resonance that transcends the tick-tock turnover of the numerals on the scoreboard. Working from a script by Jaideep Sahni (Company) that folds in close to a dozen different agendas - for the players, their coach and even the soul of India as nation - Amin manages to make breathless excitement out of the all-but-inevitable underdog triumph of the Indian women’s field-hockey team during the World Cup Finals match in Melbourne. A former editor, Amin emerges in the hockey sequences as a visual virtuoso, employing a hand-held, fast-cut style that recalls the Bourne movies. But he’s even better at raising urgent questions whose social implications hardly need to be spelled out. Can star players with chips on their shoulders learn to forgo personal glory for the sake of the team? Can players from different regions and of different faiths learn to pull together in the name of India? The weightiest burden of all falls on Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who turns in another of his fine-grained, non-star performances (like the ones in Swades and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) as the team’s coach, Kabir Khan. A former Team India player denounced as a “traitor” after a penalty-shot loss to Pakistan, Kabir is not just a nominal movie Muslim but a palpably real one, a man whose inner-soundtrack anthem is a devotional wail addressed to Allah - a prayer for India.
By Anil Sinanan, Bollywood Film Critic
August 16, 2007
The ‘King Khan’ is back on the big screen and this time he has sixteen women under his wings.
Shah Rukh Khan is Kabir, a former disgraced captain of the Indian hockey team, who decides to coach India’s national female hockey team. Will the obdurate professional be able to instil into his diverse bunch of feisty females the merits of team spirit, take them to the World Cup finals in Australia and regain public adoration in the process?
This rare sporting film is a timely attempt to revive interest in India’s national sport - Indians invented the game - which lost its popularity to cricket and football in India. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, but as a film, it’s a successful attempt to push the boundaries of the Bollywood envelope.
At one level, this is not groundbreaking. The theme of underdogs emerging triumphant, achieving self respect and fanfare through success is familiar. This has been previously explored in the Rocky series, Cool Runnings, and Bollywood’s own Oscar nominated Lagaan, and the recent Iqbal.
Yet first time director Shimit Amin has fashioned a gripping film: we keep rooting for our girls even though it is fairly obvious what the final result will be. This is achieved via a script which eliminates most of the usual trappings of the formula, and focuses on the game. Romance is absent, parents are sidelined and no one breaks out into song and dance, Lagaan-style whilst training.
Khan’s omnipresence dominates. He is impressive, adding a sixth facial expression to his trademark five: a steely grimace. The real heroes of the film are the sixteen laddettes making their film debut. Some of their characters are sidelined and lapse into Indian regional stereotype: the pushy Punjabi, a Chandigarh beauty, junglees from Jharkhand. However, the ones we encounter are credible, modern Indian women.
Amidst the light proceedings, are jibes at the Indian government’s inertia to fund sport adequately, and at sexist male dominated sporting bodies’ refusal to treat female players seriously as “Indian women are born to cook and clean”. It is also refreshing to see a Muslim Indian as the main protagonist in a Bollywood film which does not deal with Kashmiri terrorism or communal marriage.
Although predictable and with a preachy patriotic ‘United India’ message, this is a heartfelt, heady, homage to hockey.