By: Priyanka Sinha IndiaFM
Tuesday, August 28, 20
It was with great trepidation that I watched Chak De! India after several assurances and I am willing to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. There was, to begin with, Shahrukh Khan looking absolutely dishy in the carefully careless look. He's been complaining about the facial fuzz but, really, he should keep it. And the shades of silver showing up are not too bad either. Khan can go ahead and age gracefully for the years sit well on him, enhancing, rather than taking away from his sex-appeal. Going by the response from the women in the audience, I am certain that they would agree.
Speaking of women brings me to the other most appealing part about the film-the gender issue. The bit about women"s empowerment. The film is being touted as a sporty film which it most certainly is, but there are several themes that leap out as you watch the story unravel before you on the screen. And the attitude towards women is one such. It isn"t just that hockey, our national game, is not given enough importance-the indifference and apathy, if one were to go by the facts is even more abject when it comes to women players. Cricket may be a craze in India but very little attention is paid even to our women cricketers who have several proud achievements to their credit. Some lame efforts were made -- Mandira Noodlestrap Bedi was roped in to popularise women's cricket though not much came of it. Sania Mirza, the face of Indian women"s tennis, is a happy exception and not the rule. The attitude towards women sportspersons I think can safely be divided into the indifferent and the frivolous. While the first is linked to the notion that expending resources on sports played by women is wasteful, the second believes that as far as women are concerned, only sports with the perception of glamour attached to them, such as tennis, stand a chance. A glamorous postergirl for a sport may add to its following, but it is certainly not enough as sportswomen like Anjali Bhagwat will tell you.
Which brings me back to the film -- it was indeed a relief that the girls, none of them was presented like a prom queen who, scores more points with the M&B hero like coach batting her eyelids, goes through the motions of falling in love and walks into the sunset or the shaadi mandap. Each character etched with care was endearing and as in life, even the worst was not without a redeeming side. There is Preeti Sabharwal, who, in addition to a pretty head is shown to be a self-respecting young woman, an achiever to boot who thinks nothing of asking her pompous fiancee, a successful cricketer, to take a hike. Vidya, the captain of the team, the maska -chaska girl in a de-glam look is, however, the coach's favourite because of the quiet maturity she displays. Bindiya the bad girl is ambitious, difficult and well, almost impossible though undeniably talented. I could go on. In spite of the few post-release interviews that the girls have given, I can't recall their real names but the onscreen characters stay with you a while after the lights come on.
A grouse that most women have with mainstream cinema is the bimbette stereotype that is played out over and over again. It's been a while since Hema Malini"s inimitable Basanti in Sholay has been replicated. Urmila Matondkar"s Milli in Rangeela, Chitrangada Singh"s Geeta in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Tabu"s Nina in Cheeni Kum come to mind. The latter two, however, belong to the genre that is referred to as multiplex cinema for an urban audience and not the more popular masala movies. Sridevi, and to a lesser degree, Madhuri Dixit, were the last divas who shared equal screen space with the leading men of their times which was indeed long ago.
Is the lot of women hockey players in India going to improve after Chak De! India? I don't think so. But I most certainly hope that the way roles are written for women in Hindi films does.
And yes, a certain Mr Sahni can take a bow.