My mother has been unwell of late. But today, she took me to watch ‘Chak De India’. Because Ma will always go to watch a Shah Rukh Khan film. Somewhere around the time DDLJ released, my mother implicitly adopted him. She goes for his films the same way she’d attend any of our prize distribution functions. With joy and anticipation. Of course, some movies are credited with more enthusiasm… as if her kid was actually participating or had won a prize (‘Swades’, ‘Dil To Paagal Hai’, ‘Main Hoon Na’); some others…well, she went along because, after all, it is the kids school day function and you had to turn up for the event – even if all he was doing was being inane (‘Don’, ‘Ashoka’, ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’), etc.
Most times, I don’t like Shah Rukh Khan. Or, I mean, he’s okay. I have liked him in films people haven’t seen or probably been indifferent to. Like, I really liked him in ‘Chalte Chalte’. More so, because he reminded me of myself – impetuous, tough to take, but really adorable (I’m not really modest, that way); and there was this other film called ‘Duplicate’. I loved that film! Especially, I liked the names of the characters he essays – Mannu (gunda) and Babloo (cook).
But Chak De is really good for so many reasons.
One, it is a movie with Shah Rukh, but at the same time, it is not Shah Rukh Khan’s film. Remarkable maturity on part of the director to have pulled this off, I think.
Two, it brought to light a couple of interesting things, without preaching. There are aspects of sports –discipline, technique, preparation, guts, sportsmanship, defeat, victory – that are independent of gender. And the only way to get taken seriously, to show that you matter, is by winning on the field.
Three, the movie depicted a rather beautiful way of mentoring. Shah Rukh is talking to a couple of players about infighting. These two girls want to outdo each other by scoring the maximum number of goals. So, on the field, neither passes the ball to the other, even if it compromises the team’s chances of winning. Shah Rukh simply reminds them why they’re there, and then leaves them to sort things out between themselves.
It takes a very generous teacher to let the students decide what’s best for them – even when it is so tempting to just tell them what needs to be done. Even when victory is so close. To have enough faith to trust some-one’s judgment in precarious times is always such a remarkable thing.
There were a few other things that were quite amusing.
The movie begins with a hockey match between India and Pakistan. The commentator says things like: “Aur ab Kabeer Khan ne Pakistani player se ball cheen liya.” I mean, we do refer to the players of the other team by name, right?
And also, the first match the Indian team wins in the international arena is against U.K. Not China or Italy or France, but England. We still have that subliminal ‘colonized no more’ point we seek to make.
Of course, now, Australia is a different league all together. Whether on film, or in life, that team is just something else. It doesn’t matter what sport they’re playing.
I had seen a cricket match, I think a World Cup, years ago when India played against Australia in the finals. Australia didn’t even need their whole team to win. They practically managed it with some 6 odd players actively playing, with the rest looking attentive but not doing much. It’s as if they get their best to perform their best all the time.
After a really, really long spell, I felt that no-one could’ve done the coach’s role better than Shah Rukh. (Except Sanjay Dutt – and that, perhaps, is a personal bias.) Also, those girls from Haryana and Punjab…man, they’re something else! I’d say watch it for them.
Oh! And FINALLY, it was really heartening to see India take its place in the world through sweat, work, and grit. And not, as is happening now, just through some stupid SMSing gimmick. (Like, if you want to see India win the hockey championship, type ‘SHIT’ and send it here. Nonsense! And what follows is a sanctimonious campaign that if you are a true Indian, you will vote. Otherwise, you are some bionic algae that came floating down the Indus.)
All in all, ‘Chak De’ is very good. I still don’t get the full import of the expression though. What does ‘Chak De’ mean? And is there a ‘Chak Le’?