Missing the goal, by a whisker

An inspirational real life hockey player, who conquered physical debilitation to bounce back right into the game and life! Indeed, as far as sports biopics go, there is no denying that the tale of Sandeep Singh, India’s former hockey captain and highest goal scorer of many a tournament, needs to be told.

Alas, the celluloid adaptation of his indomitable courage, resilience and talent is not even half as inspiring or touching as the real story itself.

The narrative style that the director Shaad Ali has chosen is surprisingly both flat and linear. Not surprising, he misses the opportunity to strike right into your hearts with what is clearly a winning drama. Even the climactic high, the incident which pushed Sandeep into a wheelchair, doesn’t shake you from within. Though you see it coming, the very sight of the gun is enough to prepare you. But as and when it happens, it is robbed of the stirring impact it should have been imbued with. Diljit Dosanjh in the titular role, like always, is endearing on the screen, especially in the opening sequences where he is just this carefree Sunny.

Be it his fledgling romance with Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu), who too plays hockey with spirit or bonhomie with his brother, you can’t help but fall for Diljit’s beguiling simplicity. But, of course, blame it on his immense popularity, it takes a while to shirk off the nagging feeling that he is Diljit the star singer-actor and accepting him as Sandeep, the master of flicks is a slow burn process. Sure, he gets the drag flick right, moves and holds the stick as befitting a champion and finally does become this extraordinary player whom life dealt a whammy. Keeping him company and in good stead is Angad Bedi as Sandeep’s elder brother Bikramjeet Singh, also a hockey player. He is the mentor, guide and support system all rolled into one. Satish Kaushik, as the father, tries his best to add flesh and blood to his part. Lest you forget his Mr India connection, there is a reference to Mogambo too.

It’s also heartwarming to see Vijay Raaz enthuse emotion and humour as the well-meaning coach but beyond a point, his repetitive dialogue phaad ke rakh de… gets jarring.

Teary-eyed expressions of the family and sprinkling of songs follow the usual Bollywood route, though we quite like the lilting number Ishq Di Baajiyaan.

Hockey scenes are shot well, yet, you never quite feel the adrenaline rush of let’s say, a Chak De. The narrative falls between two stools, doing justice to neither the excitement of the game nor the person’s exemplary strength. Ali’s film is promising only in bits and parts. As an afterword of sorts the film ends on real footage of Sandeep Singh receiving the Arjuna Award. With his head held high as he walks up to then President of India Pratibha Patil, you do feel a sense of pride in the player representing a sport that rarely gets its due. Sadly the film packs in very few of these high moments. It also means it spares us jingoism, though one of the two matches between India and Pakistan is over the top.The film may not strike the goal with the speed and precision that the game calls for… still you can watch it for both the real and the reel hero.

If only instead of flicking through Sandeep’s life Ali had sunk his teeth into the predicament/struggle/triumph as the penalty corner specialist truly deserves…it would have been a different ballgame. And we would have come back truly awestruck by this Soorma. As it exists, the final offering fails to go beyond what newspaper reports have already conveyed.



News credit : TribuneIndia

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