The trailer of Saala Khadoos made one fear the worst; the template -- a disgraced coach finding redemption in the success of his protégé -- seemed an instant throwback to Chak De India , as did the running theme of corruption in sports officialdom. Saala Khadoos does deal with both the issues; only the game here happens to be boxing, and not hockey. Having said that, the opening sequence, high on energy and drama, holds the promise that the film might just have a voice and mind of its own. Unfortunately, it proves to be a short-lived assurance.
What follows is a shrill melodrama set against a rather hastily put together, synthetic poverty backdrop. On facing unsubstantiated sexual harassment charges, boxing coach Adi Tomar (Madhavan) is sent off from Hisar to Chennai where he finds a potential champion in Madi (Reetika) whose sister Lux (Mumtaz), part of the boxing team, is trying to get a police job with her sports credentials. Neither of the girls seems to belong to the underprivileged world they are supposed to come from, and seems more planted than the inhabitants of the space. Madi is as far as it can get from being a machchiwali (fisherwoman). Which is quite ok. Mainstream films are all about suspension of disbelief but only if you can connect with the characters, their provocations and destinies. In Saala Khadoos you remain eminently disinterested.
Sentimentality in narration takes over the essential sports. At some point you wonder if this is a film about boxing bouts or the guru-shishya relationship. Which would have been just as good had it been well grounded. The emotional turnarounds are unconvincing, contrived and excessive. The climax far from rousing.
The film does interesting experiment in bridging the North-South divide to reach out to a bigger chunk of the audience. And not just by being bilingual. Madi’s mother and grandmother, for instance are obviously North Indian, Gujarati or Marwari perhaps. You keep wanting to know more of their antecedents. But it’s a thread that’s left hanging loose.
The central characters might be nicely defined on paper but the performances are set a few notes too high. It’s nice to see old-timers Nasser amd M.K. Raina but they are made to do righteous turns. It’s Zakir Hussain as the rapacious coach who stands out despite the predictable villainous turn. Madhavan puts on a lot of bulk, is sincere and dependable as usual but sparks refuse to fly between him and the new girl Reetika who is fresh-faced but the film is not. Saala Khadoos is unable to rise above the predictability and time-worn clichés of an average sports movies. One hopes the Tamil version would have come together better.
For women of North Chennai, boxing is a way of life:
As Irudhi Suttru or Saala Khadoos released today, the author met girls from North Chennai, for whom boxing is a way of life and a reason for hope. > Read more