Tag Archives: Vidya Malvade

Movie Review: Chak De India (2007)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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My niece isn’t old enough for movies with subtitles yet, but I want Chak De India to be the first foreign film she sees. It’s a touching parable about the virtues of tolerance, set within a familiar sports movie format. A second viewing on Netflix streaming confirmed that it’s just as good as I thought it was when I first saw it in the theater.

Shahrukh Khan stars as Kabir Khan, the former captain of India’s national men’s field hockey team. He left the sport in disgrace after missing a penalty shot that awarded victory to Pakistan, India’s archrival on and off the pitch. In a gesture of sportsmanship, Khan shook the hand of a Pakistani player, leading the media to accuse him of having thrown the match.

After seven years in exile, Khan returns to coach the Indian national women’s field hockey team, a team which exists only to fulfill federal gender equality requirements. No one else wants the job, but Khan sees it has his last chance to participate in the game he loves and prove his loyalty to his country.

The team comprises young women from most of India’s 28 states. All of the women are used to being the biggest fish in their comparatively small ponds, and none are willing to accept less than a starring role on the team. Before Khan can even contemplate getting the girls to the world championships, he must find a way to get them to work together.

First and foremost, Chak De India is a really well-executed sports movie. The first hour of the film follows the team through training, and the second covers the international tournament. In-game shots from the tournament are exciting and beautifully filmed, giving a sense of the speed and ferocity of the game. Shots from the training sessions give a sense of the physical demands placed on players, which is helpful for viewers unfamiliar with the sport.

What elevates Chak De India is its depiction of diversity. The actresses in the cast represent the wide array of Indian women: big and small, dark-skinned and light-skinned, urban and rural. Two team members from states bordering Myanmar (on India’s far-eastern border) are mistaken for Chinese or Nepalese and lament being treated like foreigners in their own country.

Chak De India also asserts the fundamental equality of women. The team not only has to fight to be taken seriously, but individual players have to fight for the right to play. Little Komal (Chitrashi Rawat) defies her father to join the team, and goalkeeper Vidya (Vidya  Malvade) joins against the wishes of her husband and his family. Goalscorer Preeti’s (Sagarika Ghatge) fiance, himself a captain on the men’s national cricket team, doesn’t see the irony in asking her to quit the team because “it’s just a game.”

Throughout, Khan encourages his players to focus their frustration with a society that considers them inferior to men into success on the pitch. He knows from experience that nothing is more satisfying than proving one’s detractors wrong.

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Movie Review: Tum Milo Toh Sahi (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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There’s a nice idea at the core of writer-director Kabir Sadanand’s Tum Milo Toh Sahi (“Let’s Meet First,” according to the subtitled translation of the title song’s lyrics). Sadanand wrote a story of six incomplete individuals who find happiness when they work together toward a goal. Unfortunately, he neglected to make any of the characters likable.

The action in Tum Milo Toh Sahi takes place primarily in the Lucky Cafe, a hangout for college students. The cafe is owned by Delshad (Dimple Kapadia), a grumpy grandmother who scolds her customers and ends every caustic command to her employees with, “Idiot.”

One of the few people Delshad is kind to is Anita (Vidya Malvade), the miserable wife of a workaholic. When her husband, Amit (Suniel Shetty), complains that Anita is as unhappy in their gorgeous new house as she was in their dumpy one-room apartment, we believe him.

Amit works for Blue Bell, a national chain of Starbucks-like coffee houses bent on eradicating the competition. When the company announces a plan to acquire the Lucky Cafe, Amit takes charge of the project in the hopes of paying off Delshad with a minimum of fuss.

Delshad refuses to sell, so Blue Bell wages a campaign of corporate terror to force her out of business. Amit participates willingly, at the expense of his marriage.

Delshad gets some unexpected assistance from Subramaniam (Nana Patekar), an equally grumpy retired law clerk; Shalini (Anjana Sukhani), a snobby college girl; and Bikramjeet (Rehan Khan), a naive hick. Shalini and Bikramjeet are superfluous characters, but Delshad’s relationship with Subramaniam makes some sense. Both of them missed out on love  in their youth because they were focused on their careers and family obligations.

Unfortunately, all of the characters exhibit extreme forms of the single traits they are supposed to exemplify. The defining characteristic of Delshad, Amit, Subramaniam and Shalini is that they are all mean. It’s not fun to watch, and it blurs the contrast between the evil corporation and the regular people being trampled on. The regular people need to be virtuous in the face of powerful opposition, not jerks who kind of have it coming.

Tum Milo Toh Sahi has a number of other problems. The music is cheesy adult contemporary pop, and there’s too much of it. Every mention of Blue Bell is accompanied an annoying vocal theme, and there are several bland musical montages.

The English subtitles are poorly translated. More accurately, they’re poorly transcribed from English to English. Amit, speaking in English, mentions that he’d like a croissant (said with a mild French inflection). Croissant is transcribed as the non-word “crosone” — another reminder that Tum Milo Toh Sahi needed a lot more work and attention to detail before it went to print.

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