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January 29, 2016

Movie Review : Saala Khadoos

Saala Khadoos 

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Cast: R Madhavan, Ritika Singh, Zakir Hussain, Mumtaz Sorcar 

Rating: 2/5

Truth be told, we fell for the pre-release hype of R Madhavan’s Saala Khadoos: It claimed to be based on ‘true life events’, had Rajkumar Hirani as the producer, with a ‘real’ boxer playing the lead character of a pugilist. Sadly, Saala Khadoos fails on multiple counts and is a big disappointment.
For all the buzz around the film, and comparisons with Chak De!, Million Dollar Baby and Mary Kom, this film is not a sports drama. To be fair to it, Saala Khadoos is just a good run-of-the-mill story that explores the relationship between a coach and a student.

R Madhavan looks every bit the disgruntled coach and totally takes the cake when it comes to hurtling abuses and stating the obvious in a rude manner.

The movie starts on a high note -- our lead man, Adi Tomar (R Madhavan), is a rude boxer-turned-coach who’s has been wronged time and again by the federation chief (Zakir Hussain) and a corrupt system crumbling under political interference. A high-octane and energetic sequence establishes the enmity between Madhavan and Hussain.

This, then, is the only highlight of the film. What follows is over-the-top melodrama, and cliches aimed at playing to the gallery. From Madhavan being transferred to Chennai from Hissar (following his showdown with Hussain) to how he makes peace with his new life and trainee boxers to how our heroine, Ritika Singh, hits the screen... the predictability of the screenplay is irritating. Director Sudha Kongara Prasad fails to maintain that thin line between a narration we could relate to and one full of cliches.

So, here’s how our coach goes about selecting women boxers: He’s constantly yawning while watching a bout, and clearly not impressed with the girl the local ‘junior coach’ (Nassar) is promoting as Indian boxing’s next big hope. And then the same girl, Laxmi (Mumtaz), loses the bout despite putting up a good fight. Why? Because the girl she was fighting had political connections!

Ritika Singh does not quite floor with her performance, but she does shine in a few sequences, making her debut quite applause worthy.

Infuriated at the injustice done to her sister, our heroine, Madhi (Ritika), starts punching the judges. Some slo-mo action moves, loud music and static camera movements announce that our coach has finally found the dream talent he was looking for. Did you just say the sequence reminded you of an Ekta Kapoor serial?

Somewhere in the film, we also have to deal with a very forced romantic angle: Madhi falls in love with the rude-but-obnoxious-but-caring-and-dedicated coach. Saala Khadoos would have been a far better film without Madhi returning to boxing because she fell for Adi and not for her own zeal for the game. Also, the movie could have done without one of the climax sequences where she says in as many words that he is in love with her.

There are some strong dialogues that comment on the involvement of politics, sexual harassment and corruption in our system. But the cause of the sport is lost in a narrative overburdened with emotions.

The film is over-the-top melodrama, and cliches aimed at playing to the gallery.

The actors in the film impress: R Madhavan looks every bit the disgruntled coach and totally takes the cake when it comes to hurtling abuses and stating the obvious in a rude manner - if nothing else, his acting justifies the title of the film Saala Khadoos. Zakir Hussain is a good fit as a lecherous and scheming man calling the shots in the federation. Ritika Singh does not quite floor with her performance, but she does shine in a few sequences, making her debut quite applause worthy.

Apart from the acting, the comic dialogues and sequences, though sparse, keep you entertained in bits and parts. Sample some of them:

When the junior coach boasts of Laxmi’s skills during a match she eventually loses, Madhavan says, “Tumhare Lux mein koi aag nahi, sirf jhaag hi jhaag hai”.

During one of their drinking sessions, Nassar orders a second round of livers and when Madhavan stops him, he retorts, “Sir, health ke liye. Daaru peene se liver kharab hota hai. Aur daaru ke saath ye liver khaane se ye liver kharab hota hai aur apna liver safe!”

But these moments are too few in the film to leave any impact. Even the good performances fail to uplift the movie beyond its cliches.

Yes, avoid Saala Khadoos if you are looking for a good sports film. However, if you must, watch it for Madhavan’s power-packed performance and the slight glimpse of a fresh talent in Ritika Singh.

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