A film based on a sport, more often than not, tend to take a very predictable route. It is the treatment of the subject that makes all the difference. Sports dramas, in India, enjoy a very high success rate what with films like ‘Chak De! India’, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ and ‘Mary Kom’, among others, striking gold at the box office. The trailer of ‘Saala Khadoos’, though interesting, seemed dangerously predictable and showed glimpses of a film that was unlikely to offer something which one had not witnessed in the aforementioned films. However, when one realized that Rajkumar Hirani is co-producing the film, expectations shot up and one looked forward to a film which would, perhaps, break some new ground in this genre.
Adi Tomar, an erstwhile boxer, works as a boxer for the Indian Boxing Association. Adi is embittered by an incident that cost him his career as a boxer. He is passionate about the sport and is determined to bring the best talent on board. Dev Khatri (Zakir Hussain), a corrupt association chief whom Adi shares a history with, brings up a false charge of sexual harassment against him and sends him off to Chennai. Adi arrives in Chennai and comes across a young, feisty fisherwoman called Madhi. Adi sees some spark in her and decides to train her. Madhi agrees to train with him after he offers her a fixed remuneration for the same.
The biggest strength of ‘Saala Khadoos’ is its authenticity. Writer-director Sudha Kongara seems to have done extensive research on the sports which reflects the film. The setting comes across as real and the characters are the kind one can relate to. The film’s biggest undoing is plot which is predictable from the first frame to the last. The screenplay barely offers anything which you have not seen in the several sports drama made in the country. Even though the film is just about two hours long, it seems overlong because of a narrative that does not offer any novelty.
Madhavan, with his bulked up physique and dishevelled look, gets in to the skin of the character and plays his part well. Ritika Singh, a trained boxer in real life, is a scene stealer. Her uber confident act makes it difficult for one to believe that she is facing camera for the first time. Zakir Hussain is menacing in his presence and delivers a very good performance. Nasser is endearing as the junior coach. Mumtaz Sorcar, as Laxmi, leaves a mark in an important part. Kaali Venkat and Baljinder Kaur, the actors playing the role of Madhi’s parents, are first-rate.
Sudha Kongara’s direction is very good but she should have worked out a more interesting script which would have offered something new to the audience. While her execution deserves praise, the screenplay (co-written by Sunanda Rangunathan) could have been much better. The camerawork (Sivakumar Vijayan) is good. The film seems stretched because of a tedious plot but editor Sathish Surya does a good job at stitching all the scenes together into a cohesive narrative structure. The music (Santhosh Narayanan) is strictly average but fits in well in the film. The background score (Sanjay Wandrekar and Atul Raninga) helps in elevating the drama considerably. The action sequences (Tom Delmar) have been wonderfully executed.
‘Saala Khadoos’ is a sincere effort which aims to bring to fore the underbelly of boxing as a sport in India and the unfair treatment meted out to talented people who seek to make a name for themselves in this field. Even though one acknowledges all the pain the director must have taken to flesh out a film which seems raw and real, the fact that it suffers from a done-to-death screenplay which, in turn, makes it come across as a mishmash of different sports based films cannot be ignored.