Cyber Coolie

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It’s called the Hockey World Cup – not “World Hockey Championship”!

Posted by chakrabarti on August 22, 2007

Since it was a Saturday and everyone was raving about having seen or having heard someone who had seen “Chak de India”, I decided to check out this flick, even though it had Shah Rukh in the lead role.

A few observations:

  • The Muslims-are-as-patriotic-as-anyone-in-India card was played for the umpteenth time. SRK plays India’s Muslim hockey star Kabir Khan, who misses a last-minute penalty stroke and thus sees India’s World Cup dream slipping away at the hands of – horror of horrors – the Pakistanis! Branded a traitor after this incident, egged on by a jingoistic media, he is forced to leave his home in Delhi along with his mother. Years later, he attempts a comeback as coach of a hopeless Indian women’s hockey team, and astonishingly takes them to a World Cup victory against all odds, beating Australia in the final, of all teams (might as well beat’em on celluloid, since no one can seem to do that in real-life at least!!). Going one step better as a coach, of course, means Kabir Khan’s honor has been restored, and the slander of treason that was planted on him years back now melts away, his patriotism now unquestioned. Message to Indian Muslims: if you want to represent India in sports or any other field, be damn sure to win ALL your encounters ALL the time, especially if your opponent is our western neighbor. Else, you’re toast…
  • SRK acted well for once. That is to say, he had little emotional content and his character demanded that he keeps his emotions in check almost all the time. This avoided much of the hamming he’s perfected through all those Karan Johar-Yash Chopra tearjerkers/ romantic movies over the years. His best performance since Swades for sure (another role which didn’t involve much emoting, incidentally)
  • It’s amazing what a few weeks of national integration camp-style exercises along with jogging in Lodhi Gardens at 5 am can do to a national hockey team. It can take a bunch of rag-tags who could be beaten by school-level teams to the status of world-beaters… Wish Greg Chappell had tried such tactics before our much-hyped cricket World Cup earlier this year. It may have saved the window panes present in our cricketers’ homes…
  • It seems the scriptwriters had a field day running down the game of cricket and cricketers, what with the callous attitude of the cricketer Abhimanyu Singh towards his girlfriend (a forward in the girl’s hockey team). Not that I have anything against this portrayal. I don’t know if Indian cricket superstars behave in the manner portrayed by that particular character, but it is undeniable that the attention given to cricket, especially since we accidentally won the World Cup in ’83, has led to other sports suffering. Football is making a comeback of sorts now (I am talking about English Premier League, of course…)
  • A very obvious thing that was overlooked of course, was that the women practiced for weeks in Delhi at the training camp, playing on grass pitches. Amazingly, they had absolutely no problem adjusting to the completely different astro-turf which was used in the World Cup. If anything has led to the spectacular downfall of Indian (and South Asian, though Pakistan has dealt with the change much better than us) hockey, it has been the abandonment of grass, a surface on which our dominance was unquestioned. Western nations pulled a fast one on us by this change, and we have been left floundering ever since. That, in essence, is what ails our national game today. Lack of astro-turf pitches, lack of qualified coaches and trainers at the district and state levels, indecent facilities for athletes, a general apathy and indifference towards sports, not just hockey. An indifference that has been exacerbated by big bucks thrown into cricket (particularly one-day cricket) that keeps circulating among the BCCI, multi-national corporation sponsors and television broadcasters, with a bit of it going to cricketers playing in the national cricket team.

Verdict: go watch the film if you have nothing better to do on a weekend afternoon. But don’t expect the hockey equivalent of Lagaan.

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