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*CAN a film peddle patriotism, fight against the gender bias, rip apart class distinctions and make a valid criticism of regional chauvinism, minority bashing, all at the same time? Technically speaking, we would label such a film as sloganeering and would rubbish the filmmaker as a pamphleteer. But wo! what's this. Director Shimit Amin not only manages to make the anhonee honi (impossible possible), he does it with a delicate sensitivity and sensibly steers clear of all cliches.
Okay, the rag tag 'Bhartiya naari' team does go the Lagaan way and notch the inconceivable victory, but it does it with many a tumble and a fall, making the film a winner all the way. And it does it with its rag tag (read unknown) team members who come from nowhere, only to grow into living, breathing giant slayers. Of course, the real goonda of the team (that's what he calls himself) is coach Shah Rukh Khan, whose six day stubble lends him a maturity rarely seen before. Maybe, there were shades of it in Swades , but Chakde's Kabir Khan remains one of Shah Rukh's finest performances: measured, straight from the heart and minus all mannerisms. End result? He appeals straight to the heart...
Like the rest of his team, Shah Rukh is the underdog too. Only this underdog has to fight off a double curse of a loser and a traitor. As captain of the men's hockey team, he bears the allegation of having been the only Indian who played for Pakistan in the Men's World Cup. No amount of sweat and toil can wipe out the ugly graffiti 'Gaddar' (traitor) that has been inscribed on his home and his heart. Now, several years later, he gets a chance for proving all those minority bashers wrong. His task is to coach the women's hockey team; his dream is to make it win the World Cup, an impossible feat. Because, in the first place, there is no team, just a bunch of girls who have come together with a baggage of class, region and interpersonal rivalries. The small town girls hate the uber snobs; the city-slickers think Chhattisgarh is a jungle, the seniors can't handle the juniors stealing the limelight and petty camps create a virtual gang-war which even builds into a mutiny against the disciplinarian coach. The only thing that brings them together is gender bias — something they all have faced at some point of their life — desh-bhakti and coach bhakti...
Great performances by a bunch of unknowns, a gritty pace and a marvellous restraint make Chakde India an unbridled ode to patriotism without any hysterical chest-beating. And yes, for all you SRK fans and bashers, this time the verdict gotta be unanimous: Chakde Shah Rukh! Can you better this?
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