Review of Bollywood’s Chak De India

Chak De Poster

I just watched Chak De India, a newly released Bollywood movie about the women’s national Indian field hockey team. Usually, I really dislike watching Hindi movies because most of the ones I’ve seen have been awfully cheesy and were poor imitations of film from Hollywood. But, I liked this one quite a bit. Admittedly, it had some cheesy things – e.g. the exaggeration of how much India hated the main character for losing the field hockey World Cup for India; and how much the girls on India’s team fought among themselves.

The movie is about a fictitious Indian field hockey player, Kabir Khan, the Indian field hockey team’s captain. Long story short, Indian fans and media blame Kabir for India’s loss in the field hockey World Cup. The movie focuses on how Kabir tries to win back respect from India by coaching the women’s national field hockey team into a victorious one. On the whole, I really liked it for these reasons:

  1. It took a serious look at women in Indian society. Women coming from more traditional Indian families don’t have the same freedoms women in American society do. Though the belittling of Indian women was exaggerated in the film, Chak De addressed the important cultural issue of women’s roles and empowerment in Indian society. The field hockey team was the vehicle for this examination, as the women on the team are constantly marginalized and left unsupported by their families and loved ones — all because they’re on the women’s field hockey team, and that nobody takes women’s field hockey seriously.
  2. An attempt to address existing Hindu-Muslim issues. Kabir is a Muslim who lives in India. He is intensely nationalistic, and seriously devotes himself to the women’s team out of love for his country, and to help women gain respect in Indian society. By making such a character a Muslim, the writers of this movie seem to be trying to soften anti-Muslim sentiments brought about by the bad blood between India and Pakistan. This isn’t the only time I’ve seen something like this though — Zee TV’s SaReGaMaPa, a show similar to American Idol, has some Pakistani contestants who were given the opportunity to discuss the fact that the only reason there are hostilities between Indian and Pakistani people is because of the peoples’ respective corrupt governments, adding that there is no reason why Indian and Pakistani civilians can’t get along.
  3. Shahrukh Khan’s acting – Khan played the women’s field hockey coach very well. He believably whipped the team in shape because of the hard-ass quality enshrined in his character. Also, he delivered some great pep talks to the team, some of which powerfully used the context of his past (i.e., regarding his role in “making” the men’s team lose the World Cup seven years prior).