A disgraced former boxer, Adi Tomar (R Madhavan), coaches a young fisherwoman’s daughter, Madhi (Ritika Singh), to World Championship Boxing glory.
A sports film makes life pretty easy for itself especially if well-handled as it (mostly) looks at the triumph of the human spirit and has the patriot in us rooting for and feeling extremely happy for the victory of the underdog. Saala Khadoos dutifully follows all the well-known conventions of the type. So yes, we have the underprivileged underdog, we have the cranky coach looking for personal redemption through her, we have a corrupt sports administration, we have… You get the picture. But what makes a great film in this genre is its treatment as the events unfolding on screen are normally predictable. Saala Khadoos fails on this count. The film meticulously ticks all the plot points but gets lost in clumsy and obvious, melodramatic storytelling that relentlessly milks every cliche of the genre. A knock-out by director Sudha Kondara it ain’t. Not by a long stretch as the weak screenplay has its share of issues. The central romantic track of the coach and his protege, for instance, is far from convincing, as are their emotional graphs. The villainous track of Zakir Hussain and its final resolution (horribly filmi) is the weakest angle of the narrative leaving even a fine actor like Hussain struggling with the material and his caricaturish character. The build up to the World Championship and Madhi’s path to the final is all too conveniently hurried and even the turnaround in the final bout does little more than reinforce just how bad our typical mainstream tropes can be.
The film does get some points, however, as the genre inherently does give you heartwarming moments and Saala Khadoos too does manage to give you some on and off. And that is largely due to its leading lady, boxer Ritika Singh. True, she is no actress and some of the rough edges show up rather more than the makers might have liked but her earnest effort coupled with her coming electrifyingly alive in the boxing sequences help raise the film a notch. She is the life of the film and leads you to wonder why the film is named after Madhavan’s character. Was it a doubt in marketing it as a heroine dominated film? Or simply the star syndrome? Talking of which, Madhavan’s performance is a let down. It’s always the star we see and never the actor. Remember Chak De! India (2007) had its star giving preference to the actor within him and we know how well that worked! Mumtaz Sorcar does well as Madhi’s elder sister Lux and theirs is, in fact, one of the better worked out tracks in the film. Nasser shows just how much a seasoned actor can lift a film.
The technicalities are so-so. The songs are strictly functional picturized mostly as montage sequences and go okay enough with the film but don’t really stand out on their own. The editing pattern is as unsubtle and obvious as the rest of the film. The background score is overblown as is the case with most of our films. Still, the boxing scenes are reasonably well-executed and do engage you and because Ritika makes you invest in her character, you go along with the final fight.
All in all though, Saala Khadoos is a disappointment.
Hindi, Sports, Drama, Color