CHAK DE INDIANR
Kabir Khan (Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Kahn), the captain of India's national hockey team, was a crowd-pleasing celebrity until his 11th-hour flub cost them a heated game against Pakistan. Rumors that Kabir deliberately threw the game killed his career, but seven years later he gets a second chance when an old teammate offers him a gig coaching the national women's team in Delhi. It's far from a plum assignment: The Indian Hockey Association only has a women's team because it's required to, and sees no reason to waste money on an undisciplined gaggle of players who aren't good enough to challenge European high-schoolers.
And Kabir doesn't know the half of it. Players are traditionally selected from state teams and inevitably place regional pride and longstanding interstate rivalries ahead of loyalty to a national team that only plays for a few months out of every year. The women from Central and Southern India shun Rani and Soimoi (Seema Azmi, Nisha Nair), dark-skinned girls from rural Jharkhand, as hicks and barely acknowledge that Molly and Mary (Masochon V. Zimik, Kimi Laldawla), whose Asian features indicate they're from the country's northernmost border region, are Indian at all. Personal issues further complicate the situation: Chunky Balbir Kaur (Tanya Abrol) can't control her temper. Tiny, prodigiously talented tomboy Koumal (Chitrashi Rawat) is driven to prove herself to her scornful family, while Vidya (Vidya Mallavde) is under unrelenting pressure from her in-laws to come home and act like a proper wife. The promising Preeti (Sagarika Ghatge) is engaged to an up-and-coming cricket player who ridicules her ambitions. Senior player Bindia (Shilpa Shukla) expects deference to her seniority, and when she doesn't get it she makes every effort to undermine Kabir. Can he possibly get them to set aside their differences and work together well enough to represent India in international competition?
The answer is no great surprise, but director Shimit Amin and his cast bring considerable conviction to familiar characters and situations. Atypically for a mainstream Indian movie, Chak de India has no musical numbers, though it does feature original hip-hop/thrash-metal-inspired songs, many of which are played over the obligatory training montages. At two-and-a-half hours, there's lots of time to train.