Is Dil Bole Hadiappa a silly romantic comedy involving a cross-dresser in a men’s cricket team or a serious film with ambitions of making a feminist statement? It fails on both counts.
The story in Anurag Singh’s film, written by Jaya and Aparajita, goes something like this: Indian Tigers lose to Pakistani Champions for nine years (the matches strangely are played in the fields in India and in posh stadiums when hosted in Pakistan).
Hence, the owner of the Indian team (Anupam Kher) decides dynasty politics and outsourcing is the solution and installs his own London-based cricketer son (Shahid Kapoor once again underplaying his SRK influence with restraint) as the captain who appoints himself as the one-man selection committee.
Obviously, the players are so bad that even the village belle (Rani Mukherji) can hit six sixes in an over off them. The girl goes home to write A for All-rounder, B for Batsman, C for Catch and D for Dreams (no, really!) on her slate-board.
Mistaking their lack of talent for her brilliance, the girl walks past a long queue of male players to ask the security guard to let her in and instead of gently reminding the lady to go stand in the queue, the chauvinist guard tells her that the day women play cricket, men will have to wear bangles. Conveniently, a procession passes by and the girl observes: You worship women as goddesses but when it comes to women in human form, you stamp them?
Cue in sad music (sometimes, I suspect Yash Raj Films uses background scores that work better with our tragic plight of having to suffer their films than the in-film situations) as the girl goes home to erase the slate-board.
She has almost rubbed D for Dreams when the father tells her she has to step in as a boy for an item (the nautanki set is better than Broadway) with Rakhi Sawant.
Soon, the girl gets a brainwave. She pads up, sticking a fake moustache, beard and turban, tells the dictator captain that there’s no man yet born who can get him (her) out. You are hoping the director soon shows us that this girl is really talented but no, the Hindi film formula dictates that the hero is greater. He gets her out in the first ball and she has to plead for a place in the team.
The girl leads a double life as Veera and Veer, and makes the hero fall in love with her. There’s sexy, svelte Sherlyn Chopra in hot-pants and double-bikinis who pines for the hero rubbing sun-tan over her legs. When Veer asks her captain if he’s interested in Miss Chandigarh, he dismisses the idea saying that the model wouldn’t cook him aloo parathas (talk about reinforcing old-fashioned gender types), and Rani is charmed.
Later during the climactic match, players jump over Veer after he/she takes a catch and it’s not the beard or the voice that lets Shahid know it’s a boy, it’s the contact lens that’s slipped out of Veer’s eyes. Wow!
The politics of love wrecks the performance and the match that was in their control slips away because the key players can no longer concentrate. So, the woman stripped off her mask, cries apologetically and needs the man to finally permit her to play and prove herself?
Then comes the cringe-inducing climax when she wonders why women cannot be allowed to play cricket with Sachin Tendulkar as opening partner. Whatever little good Chak De did to make a case for the need for importance to women’s teams, Dil Bole Hadippa completely undoes by making a serious demand for a unisex cricket team as if the women’s cricket team is no good. So is there any reason Dil Bole Hadippa is worth watching?
Yes, because Rani is a fantastic performer and shows us that a woman can carry even the stupidest film made on her shoulders in a male-dominated industry that credits a much junior and obviously younger-looking Shahid ahead of her.
Dil Bole Hadippa
Director: Anurag Singh
Cast: Rani Mukherji, Shahid Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Dalip Tahil
Storyline: A spirited girl dresses up as a boy to get entry into the village cricket team
Bottomline: No runs scored. Maiden Over.