The film is directed by Sudha Kongara Prasad.
Bollywood has a special corner for sports drama in its heart. If the film turns out to be good, the public is ready to accept it whole-heartedly, like in the case of Lagaan, Chak De! India, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom. Saala Khadoos is the first sports drama of 2016 (the others that will follow are Aamir Khan's Dangal and Salman Khan's Sultan). It has released alongside the sex-comedy, Mastizaade. Let's see if the film has the potential to topple the Sunny Leone movie out of the box office race!
What's it about
Adi (R Madhavan) is a snarly, embittered coach of Women Boxing who has trouble keeping his tempers down. He used to always clash with the head coach (Zakir Khan), who had ended his playing career by foul means. Using the pretext of a fake sexual harrassment case, the head coach transfers Adi to Chennai, which is said to be the weakest boxing zone. However, there Adi meets another brilliant boxing prodigy in Madhi (Ritika Singh), a poor girl who sells fish and is also a Mohammed Ali fan (a very important ex machina). There is a snag, though - Madhi is as angry and aggressive as Adi, who is a Genghis Khan fan by the way (Another important ex machina). It costs Adi a lot of money, and for us a lot of repetitive scenes and unnecessary songs for the beast in Madhi to be tamed. But a one way romance that looks forced, the usual clichéd corrupt officials, a jealous elder sister Lux (Monica Sorcar) put roadblocks in Madhi's path to become the World Champion. And yes...Russia plays its part too...
The film's main strength lies solely on the strong performances of the lead actors. The usually likeable R Madhavan transforms himself totally into a Khadoos, someone who you never want to be your coach, by the way. The man, who had always been criticised previously for not taking care of his body, has put in extra efforts to commit himself to the role. This is evident in his first scene, where he appears bare bodied. He also conveys a lot of anguish and emotions through his eyes, especially in the last scene. But the film's real scene stealer is the newcomer, Ritika Singh. The makers must be lauded for casting an actress who is proficient in MMA, and this shows in her performance. If they had cast a popular actress in the role, the film would have totally fallen flat. However, she needs to contain her expressions a bit, as she tends to over-express herself in a few scenes. The duration of the film is quite short (109 minutes), and the plot is quite decent, but....yes, there is a lot of buts!!!
The BIGGEST problem of Saala Khadoos is that it totally suffers from the far superior Chak De! India hangover. The trailer was quite evident of this and many scenes in the film look up to the Shah Rukh Khan's hockey drama as their Godfather. Be it the totally indifferent sports panel, an aggressive coach, undisciplined trainee, poor infrastructure, you just can't ignore the Chak De feeling (Other inspirations include Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and JK Simmons' Whiplash). Madhi is a mix of Bindiya Naik, Komal Chauthala and Balbir Kaur. Her elder sister and fellow boxer also gets her Bindiya Naik moment, when she confronts the coach about why he favours her younger sister. The Australians in Chak De are replaced by Russians here. And yes, here also we have poor Hindi commentators. Even the colour palette of the films are so similar. However, unlike the SRK film, Saala Khadoos lacks punch scenes, nail biting matches (except somewhat for the final match, which is predictable enough) and memorable characters, including the lead ones. It, though, makes up for all these with enough melodrama. Major blame should fall on the average direction, shoddy screenplay and dialogues. Even with the short duration of the film, the editing looks haphazard. A sudden romance feels forced, there are needless songs and surprising lack of twists! Only a song is used to depict Madhi's ascension to being a National Champion. There are various sports drama cliches like losing to one opponent badly and then winning against the same foe in a do or die match. Also I wonder which sports administration would even keep an aggressive and even violent coach like Adi on payroll, just because he happened to be one of the best boxers around. Come on, the man actually kicks his players, that too in front of everyone!
What to do
Saala Khadoos could have been a decent sports drama, if it had the touch of a master storyteller like Shimit Amin. Sadly, it turns out to be neither as memorable as Chak De India, nor as inspiring as Priyanka Chopra's Mary Kom. At best, Saala Khadoos is a strictly average affair! Watch it only for the performances of the lead actors!
2.5 out of 5
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