The Kick’s Too Wide on This One

by vpundir | November 24th, 2007

One way to look at Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal would be to see it as the latest in the spate of sports movies that Bollywood’s been churning out lately (Apne, Chak De India…). Another way would be to look at it as the latest “crossover” movie from a “young and fresh” director.

Of course, neither view would be accurate. For one, it is not a crossover film; it is instead a film targeted squarely at the desi population residing in the British Isles. It is based in the UK and deals with issues of desis based here. And it latches on to a sport that appeals to that section of the Indian diaspora.

Inherent in this choice of sport is also the difference from the other “sports movies”: While Apne (boxing) and Chak De India (hockey) selected sports that are not necessarily the most popular among the masses, and deal with issues of sportspeople in these domains, Goal selects the sport (football) most popular among its target audience, and tries to ride on the formulae popularized by the numerous Hollywood movies on the subject.

The “Kabul Express” duo of Arshad Warsi and John Abraham is back in Goal. And like Kabul Express’ Kabir Khan, Goal’s director Vivek Agnihotri has smartly avoided putting any acting demands on John Abraham. There are only a couple of scenes where Abraham is expected to demonstrate some histrionic capabilities and, as expected, he delivers a big zero in that department.

Arshad Warsi, on the other hand, shows great maturity and versatility in a role that is relatively far removed from his core competence of comedy. Boman Irani is as dependable as ever in another addition to his repertoire of vastly diverse roles. Other supporting actors’ performances are acceptable, except for that of Bipasha Basu, who hasn’t grown at all professionally even after all these years in the trade.

And let’s face it: just Boman Irani and Arshad Warsi can not power a film through, especially when the direction is as bad as in Goal. But to place the blame where it is due, the story and the screenplay are surely at fault here. Too bad for the director that he also shares credits for screenplay.

To be fair, the story concept is fine. It is conceivable that a dark horse would put all on the line, and come up from behind; that’s what makes the sport so exciting. That the team members will rediscover themselves and re-evaluate their relationships is also a valid thread to follow. In fact, that is pretty much the story concept of every other American football movie.

The devil, however, is in the details. To begin with, the characters are not very well defined, though acceptable by Bollywood standards. What are not acceptable are the several incomprehensible turns of events. Several important events and turning points have been left unexplained or with loose threads.

Then, the way the whole premise of racism and discrimination is depicted seems to be very pre-1950s. This is not to say that there is no racism in Britain. Such a sweeping statement would most likely be untrue. But any racism that might be present is unlikely to be so rampant and blatant as several events are designed to convey.

Some parts are completely irrational and leave one completely incredulous. And of course, the “big surprises” don’t surprise anyone.

All said and done, the direction is jerky and overly dramatic. And the uneven editing doesn’t help.

Goal does have its moments, but they are more flashes in the pan than the silver lining behind the dark cloud. The scene depicting the crushing of the pride of the up-and-comer star Sunny Bhasin by the had-been, and now coach of a ragtag bunch, Tony Singh was a good thought, for instance. But it seems long drawn and boring because it quickly gets repetitive.

That said, there were a few moments that made me groan and the rest of the theater clap, whistle and cheer. Perhaps the director understands the psyche of the British Desi better than I do.

My verdict: Overall, a film best avoided.

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