Director Sudha Prasad Kongara deals with a fragile topic in her Hindi #Film debut that stars R Madhavan and Ritika Singh. Kongara chooses boxing as the subject of her film, but stuffs it with crass emotions, unnecessary twists and ordinary songs. The movie is also punctured by a loud background score that is used to emphasize almost every emotion in the film. As a result, Kongara turns it into a formula #Bollywood story that trades off hard-hitting truths of an underdog with some easy clichés.

SPORTS FILMS

There was a time when Bollywood produced an emotionally stirring film like Iqbal that tug at the heartstrings of moviegoers.

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It was followed by Shah Rukh Khan's Chak De! India, which was a befitting tribute to women’s hockey team itself due to its powerful narrative and rock solid ensemble. Later, the trend caught fire with depressingly mediocre films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom that solely rested on the performances of Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra, respectively.

A BAD TREND?

The amount of sports films that have started coming out in the past few years is just quite admirable. But, the idea of turning a sports flick into a crowd pleaser is quite dated now. In a way, Kongara’s attempt maybe a big success as it accomplishes the goal of wrapping the audience in a warm winter embrace. However, it is a complete downer in terms of writing, which frequently changes its tone without paying attention to details.

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While talking about performances, one must laud Ritika Singh and Mumtaz Sorcar for putting up such fiery performances. Especially, Singh’s minutely measured expressions of anger, grief and passion are adequately brought to the screen by Kongara. Singh’s boxing experience in real life also gives her an edge in the movie to play her role to perfection. The climactic sequence is a testimony to Singh’s immersion as an actor that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Madhavan also gives a gutsy performance, with an angst that is almost visible on his face all the time. It is refreshing to see how he has evolved from the calm and suave Manu of Tanu Weds Manu Returns to a sturdily fierce coach in Kongara’s film. 

But, let me make it clear. The mildly strong performances in Saala Khadoos aren’t sufficient to catapult this woefully mediocre film. The movie rests on such a thin plot and it shoots off in so many directions before getting to the finale that I almost got restless at a moment or two.

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Even vibrant performances by Madhavan, Singh and Sorcar cannot save a film that attempts to be an epic but ends up being a misfire.

FINAL WORD

Overall, Saala Khadoos is a very familiar underdog sports film with nothing refreshing [and, of course a romantic subplot] that runs for over two hours. And, what is most exasperating about Saala Khadoos is that its potential is squandered on inane sentimentality and a lack of focus to take a deep look at the politics of boxing today. In the end, it is just another story of audacity that is marred by a confused narrative.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆