Life is a Cinema Hall rating: (3.5 / 5) (This rating is only a snapshot. The details are in the words.)
Actor Akshay Kumar is on a mission. And that mission, partly, is to build his cinematic legacy: for when future generations of movie-watching hoi polloi look at his body of work, they ought to get a sense that he got a sense of the times. That, in his own way, he was trying to build an entertaining bridge of sorts between those who didn’t want patriotism and national pride to be force-fed versus those whose daily gruel was heated fervor served in a simmering pan of fervor puffs. Time machine alone will tell us if this actually worked. In the present, however, he’s on a box-office roll, playing intransigent roles that steadfastly want to overcome that one problem hounding the nation. It could be sanitary issues, personal hygiene of women, or as in this week’s release, winning a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics for the newly-created Indian flag. Add a dash of good-natured buffoonery to his roles, and you get a vision template of his mission.
Based on a story by Rajesh Devraj and Reema Kagti, Gold: The Dream That United Our Nation finds director Kagti pursuing an oft-created genre of late, and one that made its intention very clear in its trailers. You will stand for the anthem at the movie’s end—an enjoyable cinematic manipulation that may have run its course after being employed in earlier sport-based projects such as Mary Kom and Dangal. In its nearly three-hour run, however, Gold is partly entertaining, very gripping—especially the first hour—and a little bit of a let-down when it comes to the main sporting event. Unlike, say, in Dangal (or in I, Tonya), , there’s none of the camerawork that takes you right amidst the action, making you gawk breathlessly or hold on to your seats despite you knowing the spoiler-end. Here, the climax is, to put it mildly, mild. And yet, there are flashes of goose-bumps, and that’s primarily because Kagti has set you up for it.
Opening at the Berlin Olympics, where the India hockey team wins the gold but has to defer to the British national anthem, hockey team manager Tapan Das, played by Kumar, realizes that a latent desire to play for and win for one’s own flag and country has been lit. Circumstances and the World War play hooky with Das’s hockey dreams; and then, there’s hope in the form of the 1948 games after a gap of 12 years, and by this time you’ve already been introduced to a host of characters , primarily the former hockey team captain Samrat (Kunal Kapoor, rock solid and polished in a steady performance), the new captain of the soon-to-be-formed team in the soon-to-be-independent India, Imtiaz Shah (Vineet Singh in a raw act that’s also beautifully subdued and heartbreaking), and wannabe center forwards Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh, quite simply a delight, combining puffed-up royal bourgeoise demeanor with a genuine disconnect from team playing and the rigors of life, dispensing with worldly possessions with the same stiff-upper lip perch as he chafes at folks gulping downing champagne) and Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal). In between, in the meanwhile, Das isn’t above cheating and gambling in wrestling matches, getting sozzled and getting the marital thwack from wife Monobina Das (Mouni Roy, superbly combining eastern oomph with matriarchal pow-wow).
Das is ready with his dream team for the 1948 London Olympics, but then independence and partition strike, and in a fell swoop and bitter irony, the team’s broken up, as lands, families, and friendships are cleaved irreparably. There’s a powerful scene where Vineet Singh’s Imtiaz is attacked by rioters and he’s saved by Akshay Kumar’s Das and Sunny Kaushal’s Himmat. That scene is horrifying and Kumar doesn’t play a superhero, picking up a car and throwing it at the torch-bearing maniacs. He just about staves the men away and then shrieks, “Bhaago, bhaago!” (“Run, run!”) and hoofs it with his friends. And it is in scenes such as these that Kumar truly shines. He’s superbly natural when he’s not mouthing his faux Bengali accent. It’s when he takes a backseat, as in the climax, helplessly fettered by circumstances and people, that his desperation becomes yours. Gold has to be one of Kumar’s most subdued acts, and he keeps it in even when you want him rage. He smolders when you want him to attack. He’s also superb when he plays off with Mouni Roy, especially when he cons her into cooking for the team. Watch him break into a spontaneous jig—he isn’t flashy or trying to get your attention. He’s being happily silly and that’s a mini-laugh riot right there.
Where Gold flounders is in all the extra plotlines that it assigns its characters—be it Himmat Singh’s love story (with Simran, played with a lovely sauciness by Nikita Dutta) or the shenanigans of Mehta (played with a 70s Jeevan-like panache by Atul Kale), the monkey wrench in Das’s machine. But the weakest bit is the old-fashioned lacing of Das’s drink as are some of the song sequences—nice as they are, they trip up the narrative and deflect your attention as well despite eye-catching production design by Paul Rowen and Shailaja Sharma. The casting by Nandini Shrikent is terrific, and every one of the actors is pitched at the right position. The highlight of Gold is Sunny Kaushal, a terrific find and someone who’s to look out for in future enterprises. Here he glowers one second to ratchet up your frustration, smiles with heart melting warmth the next, even as he struggles for personal redemption.
Even if fleetingly, Gold shines its light strongest on all those who pioneer work in fields that eventually shape lives of peoples and nations, but who aren’t around with the team that make it to the finishing line. On Vineet Singh’s face in the end do you see that gut-wrenching mixture of pride and anguish, of joy and pain as also the reflection of all such originals who’d have had to bask in the glow of others. For them what’ll linger a lifetime isn’t the light of victory. It’s the shadows of those who took their place.
Life is a Cinema Hall ratings chart
(1 / 5): Don’t bother
(2 / 5): Not too great
(3 / 5): Worth a watch
(4 / 5): Very good
(5 / 5): Drop everything else NOW
Gold: The Dream That United Our Nation is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) There’s some violence, silly drunken dances.
Gold: The Dream That United Our Nation
Director Reema Kagti Running Time 2h 31min
Writers Reema Kagti, Rajesh Devraj
Stars Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Kunal Kapoor, Vineet Kumar Singh, Amit Sadh, Sunny Kaushal, Atul Kale
Genres Drama, History, Sport
Watch the trailer of Gold: The Dream That United Our Nation here: