Saala Khadoos starts off on a great note! Much similar to the plot of Chak De India, we have a disgraced coach Adi Tomar (Madhavan), so that leaves us with no surprise. The story revolves aroung how he makes a discovery in Madhi (Ritika Singh), an aspiring boxer which gives him a purpose in life. There is of course are back stories of these two characters which fail to fulfil its prupose! The movie also shows the various scams, sexual harassment and involvment of politics in sports.
Coming to the performances, Madhavan is such overwhelming. He literally puts all his blod and sweat into playing this role to perfection but all his hardwork goes to waste when he has been given the same support through the screenplay. Every frame and every scene that Madhavan appears, he impresses you but somehow his flawless performance gets held back by the shoddy writing. Ritika Singh who is a real life mixed martial artist too has done a fab job at acting in this film. The duo's interaction and chemistry in the movie is so good but sorry to be saying this for the hundreth time, the director ruins it all.
The film may lack a little emotion but it can surely be watched for the sport genre and Madhavan's knockout performance and on any given day, this film is 100 times better than Mastizaade which even Sunny Leone could not save.
The movie is a sports play revolving around boxing. Madhavan plays with the part of a boxing trainer and novice Ritika Singh plays with an ambitious fighter.
Adi Tomar had a dream to win the boxing gold for India. Instead, he languished in a nightmare for a decade as his gloves were spiked during an all-important match, blinding him in the arena and handing the match to his undeserving opponent, a mediocre boxer but a political powerhouse. The culprit was his own coach, Dev Khatri. Shattered by his loss, and disillusioned by the state of Indian boxing, Adi turned to a life of cynical self-destruction of booze, brothels and bar-fights. Loyal friends somehow bring him back to boxing as the coach of the lowly rated Indian women’s boxing team. His outspoken honesty sends jitters through his old adversaries, and he is soon transferred to Chennai, the Siberia of Indian boxing.
If you walk out of the theatre with mixed feelings about Saala Khadoos, blame Shimit Amin for it. His Chak De India was a far more worthy film that alternated between the theme of championing women’s causes mixed with sports. Don’t get this wrong. By no means is one undermining the sheer effort that has gone into mounting something as passionate as this movie, but it hardly packs a hard punch. We shudder to think what would’ve happened to this project, if they hadn’t got R Madhavan in the lead role. He is a knockout in every frame, every scene but there has very little solid matter to back a performance of that class. When you are watching a film like this, you want to be enthralled, surprised, taken aback.
Saala Khadoos is far too plain and synthetic to achieve that. Right from the start, the story feels barren and surprisingly emotionless. If you look at Bollywood’s track record of sports films, be it Priyanka Chopra starrer Mary Kom or Farhan Akhtar’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the stories focused more on minting money than on delving more about the person behind the laurels of a star athlete. Though Saala Khadoos is modest and lot less starry, it is bogged down by an underwhelming narrative.
Madhavan does his best to hold the story as it falls apart with each scene. Alas, the movie never allows him the privilege of being a hero! Despite a few heartwrenching moments of passion, it lacks soul, intensity (which is not the same as rage) and vulnerability. All the sweat and blood that the film claimed it had doesn’t show.
Saala Khadoos’ is about an unlikely boxing queen, who’s rustic and uncouth outside the ring, but flexes power and skill worthy of a champion when the gloves are on. It’s a discovery that drives disgraced coach Adi into finding purpose in his life. Even partly positioning the story in Chennai, with no dialogues in Tamil barring some stray words, English misspellings and massive posters of Tamil actors Dhanush and Rajnikanth, damages the soul of the movie. Surely using subtitles would’ve added flavour and punch to Madhi’s world. Her mother’s non-Tamil lineage isn’t reason enough to tell the story in one tongue.
Despite the flaws, it’s the performances that redeem the movie. R Madhavan’s imposing as the bulky coach, who, despite his eccentricities and downfalls, never lets his passion die. He’s matched brilliantly by Ritika Singh, who captures Madhi’s fractured world with striking strokes. However, Adi and Madhi never emerge heroes, and that’s a failing on the writing.
While ‘Saala Khadoos’ has some powerful moments, it’s not a knockout!
Saala Khadoos constructs a case-study for a lingering guru-shishya kinship through scenes and dialogues that are unnerving in their capacity to accommodate all the ingredients associated with the mentor -pupil genre of cinema (there is even a distinct dash of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black in stormy liason between the leader and the bled). Yet, there is a freshness in the dynamics that define coach Adi (Madhavan)’s relationship with his protégée Madhi (newcomer Ritika Singh). The two actors, specially the more experienced Madhavan, dig deep into their respective characters’ psyche to draw out character-defining traits and quirks that penetrate the sometimes-shallow sometimes-sublime treatment of the subject.
But let’s salute the film’s third hero. Sivkumar Vijayan’s camerawork glides across the simmering surfaces capturing the anger frustration and bitterness of Madhavan’s character before moving inwards to peer into the anatomy of human failure and redemption.
Alas, the film itself doesn’t match up to the glory of its stunning visual velocity or its leading man's towering performance. This is Madhavan’s Raging Bull. By far his career’s finest performance. The film could have been better, though. Much better.
The movie has great score by Santhosh Narayanan, he is definitely going to be a favourite in Bollywood. The background score was racy which matched the sporting scenes and fits well in both the languages. Another great album.
Being a sports oriented film Cinematography becomes a task in moving around with the fast scenes. Because action is different from sports. Cinematographer Sivakumar Vijayan did a delectable job, which goes to every nook and corner keeping up the pace. He gave a vivid outlook to the movie through his lens. The film was cut with great precision by Sathish Suriya, he was sharp and kept it packed for 109 minutes.
Sudha Kongara derived a film, which would bring repeat audiences. It packs all the ingredients with great diligence supported by exceptional performances by its lead actors. Definitely worth a watch, at last the final weekend of the first month in 2016 came with a good film.