Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review of Victory

Bat's More Like It

Starring: Hurman Baweja, Amrita Rao, Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover

Rating: **1/2

The one thing that immediately strikes you about this redemptive tale of a cricketer is that it strangely finds a strong emotional resonance with lead actor Hurman Baweja’s own failed debut (Love Story 2050) and his subsequent struggle to prove himself. And in many ways, this emotional hook works in the film’s favour.

Victory has an all too familiar story - that of a young aspiring cricketer from Jaisalmer, Vijay Shekhawat (Hurman) trying hard to get the selectors to notice him. His dada (Anupam Kher) takes great pride in his game, while his childhood friend, Nandini (Amrita Rao) who secretly loves him, boosts his morale when his chips are low. Vijay’s struggle continues and just when he’s about to give up the game, he makes an impression at a cricket camp and is selected. Soon, he makes it to the national team and starts heaping on the centuries.

What follows is the familiar trapping of stardom that overtakes his life. His new-found fame blinds him and his friendship with a self-seeking celebrity manager Andy Singh (Gulshan Grover) proves to be a mistake, as his career starts to nosedive. His game suffers and the final jolt comes when a scandal involving him leads to national outrage and shame.

The rest of the story is about how Vijay reinstates himself, and his effort to rise in the esteem of people who he let down. In all respects, Victory is a perfectly watchable film, well-directed by debutant Ajitpal Mangat with good performances all round. The director clearly loves the game and has an expertise in the subject, which is why cricket fans will find the commentary and other such elements in the film extremely authentic. The fact that there are so many real life cricketing personalities in the film - from Harbhajan Singh to Navjot Siddhu from Jayasurya to Bret Lee, lends the film some novelty and every time they make an entry, you could see the audiences (all of 21 people where I saw it) cheering for them.
Also, the dialogues are smart. When Hurman stars to shine as a cricketer, Amrita’s friend advices her to quickly tie the knot to him, “Varna koi heroine-veroine le jayegi use’ she cheekily says.

Yet, for all its earnestness, the story remains awfully predictable. People in the hall were guessing what would happen after every ball and they were invariably right. The problem with showcasing the fall and rise of a cricketer is that it is easily recogonisable to what we see happening to real life cricketers. In that sense, the visuals offer no real freshness.
Also, with sports films, especially cricket (given its overdose) it’s important to create an unusual setting to make the experience unique for the audiences. For example, Chak De! India was about a bunch of women hockey players, Iqbal has a deaf and dumb boy trying to make it as a cricketer. Again, Lagaan was a period film set in the colonial times. Victory in that respect falls short because its template is not new.
Also, the climax does not make a great impact, because the film peaks in the first half itself where the hero manages to find a place in the Indian cricket team. A sports’ cannot afford to have two major conflicts which are resolved in the same manner.Since he has already been an underdog once, seeing him going through the same grind once again takes away most of the fun.
Yet, Victory is a good one-time watch. Hurman Baweja is sincere and though he cannot be called a natural talent, he has screen presence and fits the role. Amrita Rao is delightful here. Anupam Kher is good as usual. It’s also nice to see Dilip Tahil after all this time as the team’s straightforward coach.
All in all, a neat film but not a really different ‘ball-game’.
-Sandhya Iyer


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