I love sports movies. I get so emotionally invested in all the highs and the lows every time, and I know I’m not the only one. I think it’s because by virtue of these movies being about athletes, the theme of resilience always takes centre stage, undercutting everything else. So I was super excited about going to see “Soorma,” a biopic about the Indian field hockey legend Sandeep Singh.
There is just something so awesome about watching someone fail at first, only to watch them keep on trying and trying, until they put everything they have into their big game, race, or final match and succeed. These sports movie clichés are clichés because they’re based in truth, and they succeed in evoking strong emotions every time.
Sandeep Singh has perhaps one of the craziest true comeback stories of all time! Singh was at the brink of athletic greatness when a freak accident—a legit stray bullet from an army person cleaning their gun on a train!—left him paralyzed from the waist down. He didn’t let that stop him, however. He rehabilitated and came back to the game as a captain of Team India at the international level. The man went on to win the Arjuna Award!
What I Liked: The Performances
Diljit Dosanjh is amazing in “Soorma.” He effortlessly plays up the Punjabi humour, and effectively when he needs to and showcases depth and emotional fortitude during the rehabilitation period. The scene with Angad Bedi, playing elder brother Bikhramjit, in the hospital was really well done. In fact, his chemistry with all of his co-actors is easy and fun to watch.
The entire cast actually, is great. Angad Bedi has the gravitas, Taapsee Pannu makes everything look easy, Kulbashan Karbanda and Satish Kaushik are their usual awesome selves, and Vijay Raaz is hilarious.
What I Didn’t Like: Pretty Much Everything Else…Sadly
The screenwriter watered down this awe-inspiring true story for no apparent reason. It makes no sense! The man’s real-life ups and downs were made for this type of genre. The script was a complete disservice to Sandeep Singh. His hockey prowess—not just the drag-flicking, but his defensive game—deserved better, his entire rehabilitation arc needed to be more hard-hitting, and yet it was all one and done within the span of a song.
You know what else was watered down in “Soorma?” The hockey!
I watched and loved the “Mighty Duck” movies and “Chak De India” – proof that hockey is exciting to watch, on or off the ice. I know the game itself wasn’t the story—it was the player—but considering that part wasn’t all that great anyway, “Soorma” should’ve at least brought it with the hockey! How do you make a sports movie where the actual sports part is a side note? In all fairness, there were a few good parts, but just tweaking the cinematography could have brought the experience up several notches.
Also, while Taapsee did a great job, the motivation of her character, Harpreet Kaur, didn’t really jive. Her reasoning made no real sense, especially in the second part of the movie, which was quite a drag.
Another thing that irked me was the whole bit with the first coach – the one who beat Sandeep Singh up for no reason. I didn’t really understand the whys or whats of his character arc or story.
This true story had all the makings of an incredible sports film – a phenomenal talent, tragic failure, and a rousing success, despite almost insurmountable odds. Yet, disappointingly, the movie wasn’t nearly what it could’ve been… Or what it should’ve been.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.