Gold Review

Akshay Kumar, arguably, delivers the finest and most passionate performance of his career in “Gold,” especially by excelling in the nuances – whether humorous, dramatic or intense. (photo provided)

Excel Entertainment presents “Gold”

Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani & Farhan Akhtar

Directed by: Reema Kagti

Written by: Rajesh Devraj. Reema Kagti and Javed Akhtar

Music: Sachin-Jigar, Arko and Tanishk Bagchi

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Vineet Kumar Singh, Sunny Kaushal, Nikita Dutta and others

The film opens in Berlin in 1936. The Indian team romps home with the Gold in hockey, and the British national anthem is played. The team is led by the ace Indian player Samrat (Kunal Kapoor) while Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) is the team’s junior manager. What hurts them is that they have won another gold that will be credited to the Englishmen, whose anthem is played after the victory.

During the Second World War (1939 to 1945), two Olympic games are canceled, and by 1947, it is also clear that India is going to be free, and Das’s dream of free India winning its first Gold spikes when he reads that the 1948 Olympics will be held in London.

In the interim, Tapan slides as a person. Temperamentally, Tapan, having married into money to Monobina (Mouni Roy), who is from a very rich family, has become a drunkard and wastrel. He pawns his wife’s jewelry, cheats people and has lost his reputation. When he takes his now-renewed dream as a true hockey lover (which he is) to Wadia, the Federation chief, he overrules his distrustful lieutenant Mehta and lets Tapan assemble a team.

His first stop is Samrat, but he turns down the offer, suggesting the name of Imtiaz (Vineet Kumar Singh) as captain. Gradually, the team is assembled, but after Independence, Partition happens and so do its consequences. Imtiaz, the vice-captain, and two others choose Pakistan, and two others migrate to Australia. The team is broken up, and Tapan devastated.

The second half starts with Samrat coming to pep up Tapan. They finally assemble a force of 25 from which the final team will be selected. But what Samraat (now as trainer) and Tapan discover is the team’s disunity and negative competitive spirit. They have to set right this major shortfall (how it is done is very entertaining), organize funds and once again, Tapan faces an uphill task to establish his and the team’s credibility.

Alongside runs the story of ace player Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal) and his love (Nikita Dutta) and his fluctuating fortunes in the team, thanks to the rivalry between royal lineage player Raghuvir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh) and him. The undercurrents of the politics played by an insecure Mehta and the Raghuvir-Himmat rivalry play a crucial role in the engaging second half.

Tapan’s track is also liberally dosed with humor, especially in his interactions with Monobina, a silent and staunch supporter of her husband, who, however, also beats him on the slightest pretext!

The end is predictable, but the climax does manage an edge-of-the-seat quality despite many predecessor sports dramas, which is the strength of the film. Someone stated that the film in general and its climax were modeled on and not a patch on “Chak De! India,” but that 2007 film had the advantage of being literally the first in that genre in hockey. The sequences are executed crisply and deftly.

Director Reema Kagti, whose past efforts as director (“Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.” and “Talaaash”) were tepid and quite clumsy, gets into the mainstream act here with vigor, and both she and we have to thank Akshay Kumar for this. It is, however, creditable that she chose Kumar as the protagonist based on a real Bengali person, for the actor must have taken charge afterward of the commercial interests of this film.

Full marks also to the entire VFX and technical team (DOP Alvaro Guierrez, production designers Paul Rowan and Shailaja Sharmas, costume designer Payal Saluja, film editor Anand Subaya and sports coordinator Aimee Mcdaniel) for so skillfully matching and executing Reema Kagti’s vision. Returning after a gap of 14 years (“Lakshya”), Javed Akhtar’s lines pack a solid punch.

The songs are average, but Tanishk’s “Monobina” and Arko’s “Nainon Ne Bandhi” are very well written, composed and filmed. However, main composers Sachin-Jigar score most in their magnificent background music score. I would rank this as probably the finest BGM in this year.

Akshay Kumar, arguably, delivers the finest and most passionate performance of his career, especially by excelling in the nuances – whether humorous, dramatic or intense. Mouni Roy has nothing much to do but strikes the right note. The characters of Mehta and Wadia (unknown actors), Imtiaz (Vineet Kumar Singh) and Himmat’s girlfriend (Nikita Dutta) are very well-fleshed out, so the actors shine.

The best results in the supporting cast naturally come from the even better-etched Himmat (Sunny Kaushal in a radiant debut), Samrat (Kunal Kapoor) and above all Raghuvir (Amit Sadh). The last mentioned is among the most interesting screen characters seen in a long while.

Go for “Gold,” which I see striking gold even at the box-office. It’s a blockbuster.

Rating: ****1/2

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