An out of favor firebrand boxer turned coach is sent off by authorities to a bunch of losers to coach them. (No, no, this is not Chak De! new movie!) He spots a diamond in the rough, trains her to become world champion. (No, this is definitely not Mary Kom!) Bah! Humbug!
Why then the two stars? Madhavan's muscles, the young girl Ritika Singh's earnest efforts, and Nasser who actually is the most interesting character in the movie.
It's a sports underdog movie. You've seen Rocky slur thru seven movies with the same theme. I'm not even going to mention the baseball movies and the karate movies and cricket movies (remember Iqbal?). You've heard Shah Rukh give the 'I'm the only gunda here'speech. You've also watched the sleaze and the machinations of the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) officials in Mary Kom
So you think if Rajkumar Hirani is backing this movie, there must be some merit to the film. Alas, eating mixed popcorn in the darkness of the theater is more unpredictable and exciting. Because you never know what you're getting, caramel or cheese...
So Madhavan gets into an angry physical altercation with the sleazebags of SAI and is sent off from Hissar (spelt Hisar on screen for some reason) to Chennai. Chennai supposedly has never produced a boxer and their infrastructure is non-existant.
Of course we see his biceps drive the motorbike down the countryside, we don't miss his biceps when he crosses his arms as he watches the girls fight. We are distracted by his biceps as he curses every fighter and says they're a bunch of losers
Of course he spots a rough diamond. She is angry and supposedly smelly (a real Bombay fisherwoman would have chopped off Madhavan's fingers for giving her money to buy soap because she 'smells') and a good boxer (poor Mohammed Ali... gets quoted and quoted so much you start imagining him as the invisible Yoda).
And then you mark the mental checklist you've seen in all sports movies. The annoying training scenes. Of course the 'being jaded' is your state. Some of the audience is getting primed by the loud music and the earnest endeavor by the young newcomer Ritika Singh to clap. The Indian flags and the patriotism will come. Wait for it... Wait for it...
Bingo! Wild Card Entry to world championships. And yes, there is sleazeball head coach to settle his beef with Madhavan's biceps in his unique way... Leave the girl (who is almost in the finals) or else I will finish her career!
Madhavan's gorgeous eyes are filled with emotion as he resigns... and his student is allowed to fight, and win!
The trouble with the opponent, and I feel strongly about this. Why are we still making Russians the villains in boxing movies?
And why do female students always end up having a crush on the teacher? It's bad enough coaches are found groping and molesting the students in real life. By writing a stupid romance/crush into the story they just ruined it for me. Yes, Madhavan needs to get pissed off at the crush but it could have been just as easily been another facet to the sisterly rivalry (student tells her sister i will throw the match then you will win and maddy overhears, does not see the sisters get into a fight where student injures herself, and Maddy gets mad when she loses the match.). There were so many options. This love aspect is just so annoying in a sports film.
Nasser is the magic in this movie. He holds the khadoos coach and his even angrier student in both hands, keeping them from killing each other (and two angry people make for a very loud film) and bringing them together by telling each one goo things about the other.
The young girl is put through the paces as expected, but come across more real than Priyanka Chopra did in Mary Kom.
The movie ends on a Mera India Mahaan type note with a hysterical announcer dancing in the commentators box, Madhavan crying, winning student crying, sister crying, mother and father crying, Nasser crying, audience crying (inspired from many real stories it says on screen)...
p.s. Watch the movie when it appears on tv. Give me Chak De! any day!