August packed with big ticket Bollywood fare

Aug 5, 2007 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) As India celebrates 60 years of independence, the country's biggest superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan will step up the tempo to rekindle patriotic fervour with "Chak De India" and "Marigold" respectively.

While Shah Rukh, known as the King of Bollywood, will be seen goading a team of women hockey players for a world championship in "Chak De India", Salman will essay the role of an Indian man who steals the heart of a foreign belle who arrives in India with a "bad attitude" and transforms her.

"Chak De India" that goes with the tagline "Sometimes winning is everything" is slated for Friday release in time for Independence Day on Aug 15. Yash Raj Films, Bollywood' most prestigious production house, trod a road not taken in "Chak De India" in a year that has spelled doom for them financially.

The dream merchants have had a nightmarish year so far. Their recent offering, "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom", has been declared a dud in spite of the presence of Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek, while "Ta Ra Rum Pum" was strictly average.

"Chak De India" is Shah Rukh's first release of 2007. For the actor, who has been doing straightjacket roles of late, the first-of-its-kind film based on India's national sport hockey is a departure and will be a test by fire.

SRK is seen in the avatar of Kabir Khan, a fallen Indian team captain who wants to reclaim glory as a coach of Indian Women's National Hockey team. The film is based on the events surrounding former Indian goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi's life - from his fall from grace to his rise from the ashes.

He has formidable task, as the girls are a rag-tag bunch of losers who have never known the thrilling energy of being Team India. He moulds them into a fighting unit that has its eyes set on being the world champions.

This is director Shimit Amin's second film after "Aab Tak Chhappan". If it clicks it will be one of the few films coming out of Bollywood that will have pan-India appeal. The plot reaches out to audiences not just in big cities and metros but also the smaller towns.

"I knew it was a challenging script revolving around a sport which, despite being India's national game, wasn't much cared for. But that's precisely what got us so excited," Amin said in an interview.

"What posed as the biggest challenge was the search for girls who could complete the team in the film. We were looking for real people, for a team of girls who could actually play hockey and not merely act.

"In the process of working on the casting, I came face to face with a lot of truths. First, there were hardly any women playing sports, and secondly, every patch and ground in India seemed to be covered with people playing cricket. Hockey was nowhere," says Amin.

Rob Miller, one of the most renowned sports action directors in Hollywood, was roped in for shooting as very few films have been made on women sports internationally.

The filmmakers are also hoping the film recreates the magic of Gurinder Chadha's super-successful "Bend It Like Beckham", which narrated the story of a girl in a orthodox Sikh family in Britain who overcame many odds to follow her dream of becoming a football player.

The soundtrack of "Chak De India" by Salim-Sulaiman, one of the most underrated music-maker duos in the business, is as spiffy, peppy and young, as a film trying to inspire a young India should be.

Whether it will score that crucial goal at the box office will be known soon.

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Chak De India


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