Soorma(2018): At a time when supposedly responsible filmmakers are glorifying gangsters, terrorists and sociopaths in ostensible bio-pics, Soorma about the struggles of hockey champ Sandeep Singh to overcome crippling obstacles to claim a name among sports legends, comes as a gust of unpolluted air.
This is a film that needed to be made, a story about a man whom future generations need to know about and look up to. Damn, the young need role models from our everyday life, not imported superheroes who can’t save their own egos even as they purport to save civilization from destruction.
Soorma serves up an appetizing homemade dish of inspirational drama and some beautifully furtive flights of flirtation where Diljit Dosanjh's Sandeep Singh courts Taapsee Pannu's Harpreet with hockey and love songs. There is a resonant ring of authenticity to the courtship, as though director Shaad Ali were addressing love not as a second-hand emotion but a first-hand dip into emotions that are so real and pure, they make us smile.
A lot of the time Shaad’s narrative deploys the standard sports tropes: protagonist undertaking punishing regiment, cruel coach and grueling tasks for the hero, savage setbacks and those inspiring songs about akela-chala-chal (very cutely redolent in Gulzar’s poetry). These stereotypical signposts of sportive cinema are sprinkled into Sandeep Singh’s life-story with inspiring gusto.
Shaad Ali films Sandeep Singh’s story with tremendous empathy. There are no attempts to titivate the tale with an august aura, or make the characters more appealing than they really are. It is the narrative’s good fortune that it gets the actors it deserves. Not just Diljit Dosanjh who simply takes charge of Sandeep Singh’s character with pride and affection, but the rest of the cast who huddle together in a circle of shared kinship that moved me to tears, especially when Sandeep is wounded by a near-fatal gunshot.
There is a sequence where a man kindly inquires about Sandeep’s health, and Sandeep’s father (played with contagious compassion by Satish Kaushik) looks so forlorn for a few minutes he becomes every disappointed father who ever dreams of seeing his child conquer the world.
Angad Bedi as Sandeep’s Veerji is also splendid. Physically and emotionally potent, Angad makes the supportive sibling’s part look so real you wish you could take him home to be your real-life bro. Vijay Raaz as Sandeep’s Bihari coach reins in his emotions with expertise. Tapsee Pannu as the hockey player who is wooed by Sandeep Singh has seldom looked so pretty.She lends emotional heft to the film’s second-half when she must move away from love to redeem the loved one.
The irony of the situation is not lost on the narrative. Director Shaad Ali, making a triumphant comeback after the crippling failures of Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom, Kill Dill and OK Jaanu, as Sandeep Singh after the freak gunshot, keeps the narrative straight and uncluttered. He gets fabulous support from his leading man. Diljit Dosanjh makes the character and his struggles look so artless and credible you want to reach into the innards of the plot and hold the protagonist’s hand and tell him, ‘It’s okay. You will be fine.I’ve suffered too.’
In a sequence like the one where Diljit pleads and rages over the phone against his beloved’s seeming betrayal . Dilijit’s gentle control over the swelling emotions is laudatory. If this performance doesn’t fetch Dosanjh a National award, what will? Don’t look for subtleties in this tale of valour and resilience. In fact some portions, for instance the buildup in the train to the gun-shot, are purposely constructed in an unvarnished style to impress on us the immediacy and longevity of a saga that goes beyond one individual’s ability to make a comeback.
If Sandeep Singh was nicknamed 'Flicker Singh’ this film takes that flicker into a sphere of a burning flame. Soorma just makes you happy for the unsung heroes whom cinema has the power and reach to put on a pedestal.
Karwaan (2018): Life’s like that. It takes some weird twists and turns to finally put you on the right road. Of course the “right” is often the wrong for some of us. In a sequence that would have been profoundly amusing if it were not so tragic a beautiful lady (Amala Akinneni, if you must know) looks at two coffins and tells Dulquer, “The right one is your father.”
“So far,” sighs Dulquer, “the right one was the wrong one for me.” Well , ha ha to that. Excavating humour from the innards of mortality is never easy. Writer-Director Akarsh Khurana attempts the near-impossible and comes up with a film that never offends, even when it poses some serious problems of pacing.
You know that the film is looking for ways to keep the journey going when there are unnecessary detours on the way. And why not?! Dulquer’s Avinash is a repressed unhappy 10-5 geek who hates his bullying boss(Adhaar Khurana) and wants nothing more, nothing less, than to break out of his executive dungeon and …well, just shoot pictures with an actual camera, not its digital doppelgangers.
Here, I must say Karwaan seems inspired by the Netflix film Kodachrome where the estranged father and son(played by Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis) take off on a road trip with a nurse after the father is discovered to be terminally ill.
The father in Karwaan (played by the ever-dignified implosive formidable Akaash Khurana) is dead when the film opens. He is also dead-set during his lifetime against his son’s chosen career as a photographer. In a flashback we see the patriarch sneer, “Learn to play the dhol along with photography you can offer yourself as a wedding package.”
The repressed photographer-son’s discussions on digital-versus-actual with the spunky Tanya (sparkling debutante Mithala Palkar) were also heard in Kodachrome.
Small world. But Akarsh Khurana brings his own unique worldview to the trope-centric tale of estrangement and reconciliation. While Dulquer Salman’s Repressed Executive and Mithila Palkar’s Rebellious Collegian were seen repeatedly on screen in various avatars Irrfan’s Shaukat a Muslim wheeldealer who wears his bigotry and benignity on his sleeve with no apology and very little grace. Is a unique entity.Likeable in his scumminess because he doesn’t hide it.
Irrfan is the only actor in the world who can order a girl to cover her legs before she gets into his car , without looking like a progeny of Odama bin Laden. He has a great deal of fun with his role even when the road trip goes abysmally off-track.At one point the three protagonists gatecrash into a wedding and what follows is not at all amusing, although it is meant to be. Elsewhere Irrfan’s Shaukat makes fun of a tourist couple in Hindi, not funny at all.
In my favourite Shaukat/Irrfan moment he wooes a Burqa-clad woman(Donna Munshi) with Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics Kitna pyara wada hai inn matwali aankhon ka from Nasir Hussain’s Caravan.
I’ve often wondered why that musical blockbuster didn’t spell its title as Karwaan. Speaking of music, the songs in this Karwaan(the one where Irrfan recalls the old Karwaan/Caravan) pop up like pop-outs in a children’s storybook. They just don’t fit. And they are annoyed.
The pace also lacks grace towards the post-midpoint. But while Irrfan can make gracelessness look aesthetic, the film, alas, cannot pull off that feat. The dialogues and situations too seem often too representational to fit into the authentic ambience that cinematographer Avinash Arun accentuates with such casual diligence.At one point during the journey Tanya (Mithila Palkar) decides to get a pregnancy-test kit only so that Dulquer can debate with her on the changing value system of a society that has gone from Kodak to Instagram in a click.
Karwaan has much that is wrong with it. But it also has plenty that pleases, a warmth and an empathy for the misfits that makes it a very endearing road trip, albeit with irrelevant deviations.
Image source: youtube/SonyPicturesFilmsIndia/RSVPMovies/IMDb