The fascism by which we are ruled, not necessarily in the political sense, but also in terms of social sense, will cost the people of India of their growth. In a time when we have so many problems – social, political, economic – to deal with, what we actually talk about is something that was. It is important to talk about history and to proudly mention certain events in history that were extraordinary. But what’s more important is to make sure that we stop talking about a past of dystopia, and join hands to remove such a totalitarian ideology from today and tomorrow – the days that we are living and going to live. But, this is Hindi Cinema. You do not expect films on ‘relevant’ topics to be made. No one is talking about untouchability, gender discrimination, caste bias, and so on and so forth. Akshay Kumar’s films, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and PadMan have sure spoken about current issues, but let’s be real – they were mere elitist dramas.
But let’s not consider all of this. Neither director Reema Kagti, nor Akshay Kumar have taken it upon themselves to make the world a better place to live in. So at least make a better film? The story of the Indian Hockey Team winning their first gold as Independent India (as against British India) is interesting in itself. But Bollywood doesn’t run on interest. There has to be a lot of secondary elements that spoil the case, and in the case of Gold, the numbers of spoilers outnumber the things that work for the film.
When I had reviewed Meri Pyaari Bindu, I had said that my problem with Hindi Cinema trying to portray Bengali characters is that almost no one ever gets it right. And that’s one of the many flaws Akshay Kumar brings with him. And what clearly doesn’t work in his favour is the fact that we have Mouni Roy as his wife, who speaks impeccable Bengali.
Kumar plays Tapan Das, a man who has been destroyed by his own choices – alcohol and gambling being the most prominent ones. He does play that part of his character decently, but that’s not what he’s here to do. This man wants to win a gold in hockey for Independent India. A major flaw in the way Akshay Kumar plays Das is that as Das wants gold, so does Kumar. Every film doesn’t work as a ‘product’, and Kumar treats Gold just like one. He doesn’t bring his best to the table and only seems to be interested in the box-office numbers.
Amit Sadh plays a rich, spoilt brat who knows his game, but also the politics within, but somehow, he doesn’t work at all for me. In a scene, Sadh’s Raghubir Pratap Singh strips down to his boxers and gives his clothes to a roadside beggar in order to show his modesty. Dear Miss Kagti and Rajesh Devraj (co-writer) if you really wanted to show how human Raghubir is, all you had to do was for him to offer some work to the beggar. How long will the clothes last?
We also have some decent performances by Kunal Kapoor (Samrat), Vineet Kumar Singh (Imtiaz Shah) and Sunny Kaushal (Himmat Singh) but they’re all reduced to mere nothings. Actresses Mouni Roy and Nikita Dutta (Himmat’s girlfriend) are also reduced to sidekicks but I won’t complain in that department because it was 1947, and Indian women hadn’t even realised their freedom, let alone rights.
In many ways, Kagti’s film tries to be Chak De! India but fails miserably. There is a brilliant scene in Chak De, when Shahrukh Khan is taking everyone’s introduction and all of them announce that they’re from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and SRK’s Kabir Khan asks them to stand away from the team, until Vidya Sharma says that she’s from India and Kabir gives a speech about how the only thing he can hear is ‘India’. In Gold, this scene is recreated but in a different fashion and if you blink your eyes for a little too long, you might just miss it. Preeti Sabharwal and Komal Chautala’s banter and then reuniting as a team is also recreated in the characters of Himmat Singh and Raghubir Pratap Singh.
But what works for Chak De, doesn’t work for Gold, primarily because there is no spirit. The writing is so weak that not for a single moment did I feel patriotic, or even engaged, for the lack of a better word. When I watched Chak De, even though I knew that these girls will make the country proud, I was tensed throughout – that was the aim of the film, the end purpose even. But while watching Gold, I knew I was watching a ‘commercial film’. And in the greed to make a commercial film, everything is lost for Gold.
The trailer of the film promotes the story as “a dream that took 12 years to become true”. Very honestly, I did not see the blood and sweat that went into transforming this dream into reality. Also, writers need to realise that if there is a narrator in the film, you are doing something wrong. There are times when it works, like in PK, because Anushka Sharma’s Jaggu became a part of the narrative, unlike Kumar’s Das who struggles in the two roles he’s given to play.
All in all, Gold begins with a very powerful scene, when in the 1936 Olympics, none of the Indian players salute Hitler. They don’t want to be a part of this dystopia. And I think, “okay, nice start”. But in the climax of the film, the Indian National Anthem is played an the audience stands up, submitting to the same dystopia. This the why Gold doesn’t work for me at all.
If I had to rate the film, not one song in the film gives even the players the power to do something, and win gold…