Cast: Nishan, Suranya Mohan, Annu Kapoor, Puja Gupta, Anupam Maanav, Kishori Shahane, Shashank Udapurkar
Director: Shailesh Verma
Rating: One and a half stars
The thing with sports movies like Lagaan, Chak De India, Iqbal, Paan Singh Tomar, Bend It Like Beckham, and even lesser ones like Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is that the passage to the last over, the last mile, the last bout, is paved with such stomach churning, hackle raising emotional agony and suffering that the battle at the end is not about winning the medal, the first place, the trophy.
It’s a moral jung which demands that you give it your all and stay the course. It’s this righteous velocity underpinning the game which turns us, the audience, into cheering, weeping, clapping supporters.
The game is being played for us, to restore the balance in our lives upset by the preceding turmoil on celluloid.
The wounds on champions are lacerations on our psyche. Even if you’ve never sat through a single game of cricket or hockey in your life, at that moment in the film, when the underdog is losing, that’s the game of your life.
It’s an easy enough formula, a simple story arc, and it’s been done to death. Mostly it’s successful. When done really well, these films stay with us, as all-time favourites.
They are metaphors personifying the potential each one of us has, the power to rise from the ashes. It is life’s ultimate hyperbole made real because of the film, the story, the champion.
Kabaddi the game of tagging, wrestling, breathless chanting of “kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi” is mostly played in rural settings in India, by sons and daughters of the soil.
Winning the game is always izzat ka sawaal. And to date India has kicked ass in kabaddi. We’ve won all the five World Cups, every kabaddi gold in Asian games, and we’ve won seven out of eight golds at SAF Games.
Both our teams, men and women, have always done us proud. And don’t snigger. We’ve beaten Canada, Iran, Japan, Bangladesh, Nepal, New Zealand, Thailand, Korea and lost only once to Pakistan.
This clunky background is to convey to you two simple facts: I love kabaddi and was really looking forward to Badlapur Boys. It’s a half-decent kabaddi game encased in the dullest possible film.
In a fairly fake rural setting, with a fairly wimpy story written by director Shailesh Verma, we find ourselves quite agitated early on because in the mythical Uttar Pradesh village of Badlapur, the rather dabang looking villagers are grovelling in front of the collector who speaks to them in the worst ever Bengali accent.
They want him to forward their request for a nahar to the chief minister. He is, in bad Bengali, disinclined.
One villager, Ram Pervez, is particularly peeved, and announces that if their request is not processed, he’ll set himself ablaze. Ram Pervez duly sets himself on fire on the promised day while villagers stand around looking not-so-disturbed.
Only his wife, always in lovely handloom sarees, is distraught. His son, Vijay (Nishan), has internalised this tragedy. All the more because the villagers have decided that Ram Pervez must have been pagal to kill himself, and start calling Vijay “pagal ki aulad”.
No competition to “mera baap chor hai”, but it wants to swim in the same ocean. All this means Vijay has to go work for an ambivalent Aman Verma, i.e. Thakur saab.
One day little Vijay lets Thakur’s goats wander about while he goes to play kabaddi. Thakur beats him up and makes him swear that he won’t ever play kabaddi.
Thus, Vijay is condemned to remain the player who watches but can’t play kabaddi, till the day he has to, of course.
Vijay’s team always loses. Shame, shame, the players’ neighbours, mother-in-laws snigger. But at a big village mela, where a kabaddi tournament is scheduled, they decide that they will finally win.
They lose, of course. Not because Vijay has found a mate and is loitering about with her, but because they don’t play as a team, as the coach of the Indian kabaddi team, Singh saab (Annu Kapoor), tells them. He sees something in the team, especially in Vijay. But they ignore him.
There’s just too much humiliation after the mela match. So Badlapur team decides to break the jinx of village-level humiliation of seven years by entering the state championship, in Allahabad.
Obviously, Singh saab will get to train them, and obviously Vijay will play and honour his father’s sacrifice.
Thankfully, the kabaddi matches we get in Badlapur Boys are exciting, courtesy cinematography Sanket Shah who has captured them better than any kabaddi match I’ve seen.
There are interesting aerial shots, and the camera is always in motion. The kabaddi playing boys are not bad either. Only trouble is that all they mutter “kabaddi, kabaddi” in a decidedly third-rate story where the moral victory is, well, a dud.