Revisiting Hip Hip Hurray and Chak De India

Yash Raj Films’ Shimit Amin directed movie – Chak De India (2007) can deservingly claim to be the best sports movie made in Bollywood. If we set aside the biopics of the Indian sportspersons released during the past few years, we have got some good and some average sports movies made in Bollywood. The pioneer in this line was Prakash Jha’s debut directorial venture – Hip Hip Hurray (1984).

Watching Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (2007) renders a feeling to revisit both Chak De India and Hip Hip Hurray though it was released barely three and a half months post the release of Chak De India. As the movie progressed scene by scene, a sense of deja vu enveloped me and I strongly felt that the script-writers (Anurag Kashyap-Rohit Malhotra-Vikramaditya Motwane) must have sought inspiration from both these movies when he were writing the screenplay of Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal. Nevertheless, it is to be admitted that it’s overall a good movie which entertains as well as motivates albeit in a different setting, i.e., Southall, England.

The main character of the story is not a human-being but a Football club named after its location – Southall United Football Club which has been a loser in competitions for decades and whenever it competes in any event, nobody gives it any chance to win. Now the trouble is, the place of the club taken on lease, is to be vacated unless the lessee pays the due amount of three million pounds to the lessor who is planning to build a shopping mall and a theme park at that place. To save their club, their ground and their passion for Football, the club members which are all Asians, get an opportunity in the form of the English Football League whose winner is going to be paid a sum of (exactly) three million pounds as the prize money. Can they avail the opportunity and make the impossible possible ?

Well, we know the answer. After all, it’s a masala Bollywood flick.  But then the end of such movies is bound to be a predictable one. The highly admirable two movies mentioned in the beginning of this review are no exceptions in this regard. Now the thing is, despite the predictable end preceded by an adrenaline rushing climax, if the movie is able to keep the audience glued to the screen with unwavering attention, it’s a success of the filmmaker. Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal achieves this end only partially. Studded with Bollywood clichés, this movie is unduly long with confused characterization of certain principal characters. The writers and the directors have tried to connect certain facts and tie loose ends in the end and they have also raised the issue of racism (anti-Asian bias) prevailing there but despite (and because of) that, the narrative meanders through confusing lanes and make this lengthy movie an exhaustive one for the spectator.

The most confused character is of Sunny Bhasin (John Abraham) who considers himself a British and not an Indian (his parents are Indian) but does not give a damn for the racial bias imposed on him. And his professionalism is based not on professional ethics but money and allied things. Other characters like the captain of the Football team (Arshad Warsi), his sister who happens to be the physiotherapist of his team (Bipasha Basu) and the coach who is an ex-player of this club (Boman Irani) are relatively less confused but confused beyond doubt. It reduces the credibility of the story despite the fact that the writers have incorporated the real life incident of the Munich Plane Crash happened in 1958 in which eight players of the Manchester United Football Club were killed, into the narrative.

Racism is condemnable irrespective of the part of the world where it is practiced. However imposed patriotism for their country of origin also does no good to the immigrants. Patriotism or love for the motherland (of self or the parents) becomes lifeless and artificial once it is worn on the sleeve. And that’s what the writers and the director (Vivek Agnihotri) could not understand. Love for India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh) once shown off unnecessarily by the characters of the story, starts giving the look of something plastic.

The Football matches have been shot well and the art-direction is also up-to-the-mark but the director and the editor could not render the stuff available with them the form of a slick movie. Hence the movie though entertaining, impresses in patches only. Though Football is widely perceived as a violent game, showing the players in a violent mood almost every time is irksome. The romantic track of John-Bipasha is quite unnecessary. Ditto for the item song – Billo Rani. Albeit the music composed by Pritam is good, especially the title track. Background score and dialogues are so-so.

Acting is good and all the principal as well as the supporting actors have done justice to their respective roles though Bipasha Basu’s character hardly matters in the movie. Ditto for her (and Arshad Warsi’s) younger brother’s character. John Abraham has a great screen presence which make up for his limited expressions and acting talent. Boman Irani has done a pretty good job as the coach. His speech to his players before the final match is on the lines of Shah Rukh Khan’s speech to the female Hockey players in Chak De India but it contains a very good message – ultimately moments only matter whether it’s a match or a life and hence they are to be seized to shine and cherish later on, rest is all routine.

Hip Hip Hurray was a Football movie only. If some other quality Football movie that comes to mind, it is Bend It Like Beckham (2002). Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal could not match the quality of these classics. It’s a decent timepass and a one time watch notwithstanding.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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