Yes, there are a handful of plausible issues in a plot that requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief — a cricketer wanting to avenge his brother's death not just gets picked up in the national team but the screenplay also conveniently grants him his wish of facing off the same kickboxer responsible for his brother's death!
And to make the world a smaller place, the psychologist of the Pakistani kickboxing team is the same girl the hero fell in love with at first sight after a cricket match and later becomes best buddies with his brother and girlfriend… because, well, it's a Hindi film.
But despite this run-of-the-mill plot and signs of amateur execution (longish newspaper and TV headlines contain full stops, TV anchor of CNN… oops, GNN dresses and talks like her last assignment was with an adult chat line and cricket jerseys read Rest of The India), Lahore packs quite a punch.
It's what you would get if someone were to remake Apne and try to make a clichéd plot like that as realistic as possible. To director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan's credit, he makes a whole lot of this Bollywood tripe seem at least remotely credible. He at least makes an attempt to explain why and how this ridiculous premise comes into play and distracts by investing in some extremely credible action choreography and recreating the world of kickboxing championships by shooting in places that look real with actors who actually look like they can kick quite a bit of donkey.
Newcomer Anaahaad who looks part Rahul Dravid, part Shahid Kapoor, part Yuvraj Singh looks perfect for the part, wooden only when it comes to hardcore acting but flexible as hell when he has to fly around and kick. And that he delivers, making for an absolutely riveting, unpredictable climax which makes up for all the excuses the director has used to get us to this point about sport and politics.
That last moment of the fight alone is worth the price of admission and you can feel the rush of adrenaline every time a fresh round begins. The casting really elevates the mediocre plot to a film with something to say and the actors are all first rate. Be it Sushant Singh and Shraddha Nigam who plays his girlfriend or Shraddha Das who plays an independent Pakistani woman.
One look at Hyderabadi-spouting Farooque Shaikh and you know he means what he says. His and that of Ashish Vidyarthi in the Pakistani camp are the voice of reason in the film as the director tiptoes around jingoistic territory with considerable restraint and caution. There are the mandatory bad guys too in Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Mukesh Tiwari but the bad is limited to an ideology: a desire to win, no matter what, at any cost.
Yet you wish the film ended with the fight and spared us the Bollywood ending of spelling out what it meant but by this time, chances are that you would've forgiven the missteps and been won over by the display of heart.
No matter how cheesy and bad some chunks are, a film with a heart always manages to shine through and has the potential to blow you away with its guts and spirit. And Lahore does that.
Director: Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan
Cast: Anaahaad, Sushanth Singh, Farooque Shaikh, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Ashish Vidyarthi, Mukesh Tiwari, Shraddha Das, Shraddha Nigam, Nafisa Ali, Nirmal Pandey
Storyline: A cricketer returns back to kickboxing to avenge his brother's death at a kickboxing championship at the hands of a Pakistani champ
Bottomline: Apne done right, a knockout film despite the flaws.