A gentle reminder of unity and diversity in this Akshay Kumar-led sports flick
‘Gold’ is the latest film to be churned out from the Bollywood Sports Club following ‘Chak De India’, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, ‘Mary Kom’, ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’, ‘Dangal’ and the very recent ‘Soorma’, which incidentally was also based on a real-life hockey champion. From the looks of it, ‘Gold’ comes across as a check-list ticked off with all the necessary ingredients required to make a gripping sports drama. But that’s where director Reema Kagti of ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd’ and ‘Talaash’ fame, steps in to surprise you.
The plot kickstarts at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 where the British-led Indian hockey team faces off Germany in the final. Despite their eventual victory, Junior Manager Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) has little to celebrate as he stands by the sidelines watching his team rise their heads up to the British national anthem. It’s then that he nurtures a dream to lead a free Indian hockey team to Olympic Gold victory. In telling opening credits, we are shown how political unrest across the world following the World War II led to the cancellation of subsequent editions of the Olympic Games. In 1946, Tapan, now an alcoholic who owes a lot of debt and has been ousted from the Hockey Federation, chances upon a newspaper clipping that reads the announcement of the 1948 Olympics in London. He then resolves to put a team together with the promise of a gold medal to the Indian Federation. His search takes him across the length and breadth of the country. He first approaches the former captain of the 1936 British-led Indian team, Samrat (Kunal Kapoor) who refuses to come on board but recommends that his teammate and friend Imtiaz (played excellently by Vineet Kumar Singh) takes charge. A déjà vu moment of ‘Chak De India’ happens with the introduction of the princely Raghubir (Amit Sadh) and the hot-blooded Himmat (Sunny Kaushal). Read, Preeti Sabharwal and Komal Chautala (winks). Things sail along smoothly till the announcement of the Partition disrupts the dream.
The story, written by Kagti and Rajesh Devraj, is authentic and refrains from unnecessary dramatics. Which if you honestly ask is refreshing considering how some of Kumar’s recent releases have been jingoistic. Kagti’s screenplay is engaging with some outstanding scenes that deserve a mention. My favourite scenes include the Partition track involving Imtiaz that is particularly heart-breaking, Samrat teaching a lesson on team spirit to his reckless, divisive bunch and the scenes that show India and Pakistan united in their quest to avenge their slavery from the British, on their soil.
Being a period film, the biggest challenge is to get the setting and the costumes right. That’s where costume designer Payal Saluja and production designers Paul Rowan and Shailaja Sharma excel. Editor Anand Subaya could’ve trimmed the length of the film by doing away with a song or two. The love song between Kumar and Mouni Roy seems forced frankly. Cinematographer Alvaro Gutierrez captures the mood and setting of India and England from the 1940s, beautifully. Sachin-Jigar’s music and original score lift the film, especially in the climax that will keep you at the edge of your seat and eventually move you.
Speaking of the performances, Kumar sheds off his stardom to make Das loveable even though his behaviour suggests otherwise. The only hiccup in his act is his unconvincing Bengali diction. Mouni makes an impressive debut as the no-nonsense wife Monobina. Kunal is easy on the eyes as Samrat though I’d have loved to see more of him. Amit is inconsistent as Raghubir and is not easily a likeable character. But its Vineet and Sunny who make the maximum impact as Imtiaz and Himmat.
High on patriotism and low on dramatics, ‘Gold’ is a gripping and entertaining sports flick to cherish. But its also a gentle reminder of how the key to building a successful nation is to rise above all prejudices and unite as one. P.S Please do stand up twice for the National Anthem.