A bunch of part-timers solidifying into a team with sole aim of fighting the 'goras' to save their land. Underdogs beating the champions after the opposition's attempt of breaking the team didn't succeed. Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan? Yes, and director Vivek Agnihotri's latest release 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal'.
Underdogs-beating-Champions is a perennial theme in the films of sport genre. You always know that in last 2 minutes the hero (or heroine) will hit the winning goal/claim the last wicket/score the winning run/reach the finish line or whatever and redeem the disgraced coach/fulfill the dreams of the community etc. etc.
What separates one good film from a bad one is everything else that goes on. And there is actually lot of 'else' going on. So much that game gets lost at times.
Goal introduces the UBCD (UK Born Confused Desi, the British counterpart of more famous ABCD, America Born Confused Desi) to Indian audiences, which could have been a good thing, had the director dealt it a little deftly. The film barely scratches this confusion because it is busy in digging up the issue of racism in English society, and this is precisely where it fails.
(My recommendation:watch 2004 Best Picture Academy Award winner 'Crash' if you have to watch a really sensitive film on the issue of racism)
The sensitivity required to portray the issue has been replaced with jingoism and unnecessary sense of nationalism ('Hindustan' and 'Hindustaniyat') which is so excessive (in reel-length if not content) that it puts you off. You can sense there is a problem when you hate the protagonists when they do the foul mouthing. There is hardly any viciousness in English racial slur ('Paki') and the pain in the hurt it causes.
And talk of the clichés. There is a disgraced coach (as I mentioned above!) who agrees to coach the team (and comes directly to ground) after refusing initially but giving in when captain calls him a failure and coward. Yawn!
Writing is at best patchy. If Rohit Malhotra and Vikramaditya Motwane's screenplay is overflowing with cliches and a sense of deja vu, Malhotra and Anurag Kashyap have done pretty good job in dialogues. (But I can't forgive 'alag alag rang ke phhol sath mein kitne achhe lagte hain')
The first half goes in establishing the 'team' and troubles facing them and is almost as lively as a dead turkey. Second half has lot more action in terms of happening on the soccer pitch as well as story movement. But again most of the moments are predictable. Climax is well conceived and executed but a coach and a 'physiotherapist' (-cum-girlfriend of the star footballer) lets him play a match which could be fatal to his life, is beyond my understanding!
But the film has its moments like the one where a child tells Sunny (the star Asian player) that he is his (Wayne) Roony. (Ohh how I wish there was this subtlety throughout and now I realise that this was one of the reasons I liked Chak De!)
Southall has been shot pretty well, but most of the football matches seem a lot to be desired. Casual soccer hobbyists like me may like the scenes of Manchester United club and ground. (You diehard fans would already have seen all this on ESPN-Star Sports!)
Unlike Chak De this film may be about a team game but not about team. There are team-moments but individuals always loom large: Shan, the captain of Southall United Football Club and part time Chef in his own restaurant and Sunny, the professional footballer who is the star. Count others: Tony Singh, the yesteryear great, now coach of this team; wives of everyone, and team members!
Arshad Warsi has been dependable actor mostly and he delivers. I just wish that his character was better written. Why does Shan hate Sunny even when he believes that only Sunny can fulfill his dream of winning Championship? Why does he not talk to his team mates when they don't play well but just keeps on shouting 'idiots'? John Abraham has got Rocky S to make him look good and he does that! He has already played a brat in 'Taxi No. 9211' and he does that here as well. Boman Irani stands out as coach, but his version of '70 Minute' (The pre-climax pep talk) doesn't actually stand out as good as that of Kabir Khan (SRK in Chak De)!
Did someone say Bipasha Basu? I guess UTV guys made director take her at the last moment at the last moment so that they could get a little air-time on channels as a John-Bipasha movie. She does nothing, except wearing a RN jersey and saying things like 'I am sexy and you too are sexy'. Shame. Among others Kushal Punjabi impresses.
To its credit Goal qualifies as a sports film and doesn't merely pass of the sport as a backdrop for the drama, but then it is not able to captivate the viewer throughout its length! Go for it if you don't have anything to do, otherwise better still wait for TV Premiere.
My rating 2 stars.