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Film: Gold, Cast: Akshay Kumar, Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor, Mouni Roy, Directed by: Reema Kagti, Duration:  2 hrs 34 mins, Rating: «««

Patriotism and sport always go hand in hand, especially in films. As much as it is about personal glory, it is also about ‘desh ka naam roshan karenge.’  Gold directed by Reema Kagti, her third directorial venture, is a period film that revolves around Independence, hockey, patriotism and a bit of madness of the central character to achieve something against the odds.

While it manoeuvres quite smoothly during its two and half hours (except for the odd subplots and the coach getting drunk and singing ditties), it also delves on the bonhomie between the people of India and Pakistan, post independence. While in most sports films, the finale or a segment of it ends up with a showdown with the neighbouring nation, Gold steers clear of those jingoistic sentiments.

In fact, you wish the film had delved a bit more on the complexity of the issue then – after the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to war the London Olympics were held in 1948, exactly a year after India and Pakistan became independent. An idea was floated to send a joint hockey team but that didn’t go down very well. Eventually, both the countries took part, independently – needless to say, India won the gold but not by defeating the neighbours but our former colonial masters.

Bits and pieces of the film are based on true events and unless you check the facts independently, it is hard to differentiate from cinematic liberty and what actually transpired. For instance, some of the players actually took off their shoes and played because of the wet field – that sounds straight out of an imaginative page but the then Indian captain Balbir Singh is on record stating that is what happened.

But to rewind, let’s meet Tapan Das first, played by Akshay Kumar, the new poster boy for films with a patriotic cause. He was a manager cum coach of the 1936 Olympic hockey team which won the gold medal – except that India was not independent then and the players had to see the Union Jack being hoisted. Kunal Kapoor plays Samrat, a star player who has a great deal of adulation.

During the war, it was all downhill for Tapan and the rest. He takes up to drinking, squanders all his earnings while bickering with his wife (Mouni Roy), more often than not. Fast forward to a few more years, freedom is around the corner, the London Olympics are announced and Tapan has got a spring in his stride. He wants the federation to entrust him to form a team so that they can bring glory to India.

Some of the sub plots are a dud while others are fascinating – Imtiaz (Vineet Kumar Singh) is chosen as the captain of the team but when riots break out, he has to cross the Rubicon and go across the border, for his own safety. The same happens to other Muslim players from the team.

Tapan has to start from scratch again with the usual Federation villains (“team mein already paanch log Punjab se hain, baaki states ko bhi chance milna chahiye”) and the odd gentleman.  The climax, even though you know how it will pan out has some thrilling moments and some smart plot devices, like the use of Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal), the hot headed Sardar, who is saved for the game. India actually beat Great Britain 4-0 but to make the finale more interesting, the score line is twisted in the film.

The class divide is made apparent with the introduction of Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), a privileged rich young man, who belongs to a royal family and a talented player as well. His lifestyle is in contrast with Himmat Singh, who hails from a humble family and some of those cuts cleverly show rather than tell all about it.

Of the cast, Akshay Kumar is efficient in the lead role and the supporting cast is serviceable. Gold could have gone further beyond the customary, but it still is a decent watch.


Truth Hurts

Film: Satyamev Jayate, Cast: John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Directed by: Milap Zaveri, Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins,Rating: ««

“Kachre ko insaaf nahin milta, kachra sirf saaf hota hain”, “Note badle hain niyat nahin” – these are just some of the gems, which could possibly send the audience in single screen theatres in a tizzy, in Milap Zaveri’s latest offing, Satyamev Jayate. This is another one of those vigilante films (with a bit of Deewar twist) and every actor worth his salt has done a crusade against injustice and corruption, including John Abraham.

This film plays to the gallery, all the way – right from an item number to the catharsis of the bad guys getting what they deserve, this has it all.

Zaveri’s bio includes films like Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum 3, Housefull as a screenplay or dialogue writer. To be fair, in this film, he is aware of his target audience and aims to please them.

Expressionless wonder John Abraham plays Veer, he is specifically targeting corrupt policemen – burning them alive seems to be his favourite mode of disposing them. There is also a joke about a toaster after a charred body is found. The ever reliable Manoj Bajpayee plays a cop who makes it his mission to hunt down this vigilante who is on a killing spree.

Bullets fly, bones are broken, blood is spilled, teeth (golden in this case) are knocked out and at one point, our hero flexes his muscles in such a way that he rips a truck tyre (or could be bus) with some shoddy CGI.

The cat and mouse game goes on and occasionally, there is some romance between Mr Muscles and a veterinarian. There is also a moment where a Muslim youth is being tortured, only to be saved in timely manner by a higher power, not forgetting the Moharram episiode.

John Abraham has all of two expressions on his face and he uses both in the first two minutes of his entry. Fortunately or otherwise, he sticks to flexing his biceps which are far more expression worthy. Manoj Bajpayee adds some zing to his character and plays it with enthusiasm. Otherwise, this vigilante business is rather pedestrian.

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