Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Amit Sadh
Director: Reema Kagti
In the Olympics of 1948, the Indian hockey team isn't playing just to win the tournament, but to beat the British legacy of slavery of over 200 years. There can't be a better venue than London. With tempers running high and biceps bulging at the slightest provocation, it's history in making. India is up against Britain, the host, in their den. The crowd is hostile, but admires a good game.
It's similar to the hockey finale of 1936 when British India destroyed the host Germany in Berlin. It's also a metaphor of how it takes years and generations to see dreams come true, and how the history repeats itself. Such connecting dots make Gold a cut above the rest and an absolutely delightful watch.
Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) is a paradoxical character. Throughout called 'paagal Bengali', he is what Jerry Maguire would have been in his circumstances. Or, maybe better, thanks to his understanding of a flawed team manager who drinks like a fish and retaliates like a hyena. He is tactical, non-confrontational and the go to man for players who have not yet risen above their social conditions back home.
There is an excellent dribbler in Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), the scion of a princely state in erstwhile United Province, who finds the untamed energy of Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal) threatening. There are others who are yet to find a purpose in the stick, but they're all glued together with Tapan's passion to see the flag of independent India hoisted above others.
This is an ideal, somewhat predictable, set-up, and it’s totally up to the director Reema Kagti (Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Talaash) to turn it into either an intense drama like Chak De! India or an overtly patriotic saga invoking tears. She chooses the middle ground and Gold transforms into a smart film on-screen. It adjusts Akshay Kumar brand of comedy and emotion-driven songs with ease into a script that’s mostly about a simple man’s desire to see the world in a new light.
In fact, truth be told, the first 30-minutes of Gold’s screenplay is one of the finest this year. You meet the key characters, get introduced to their struggles and understand the conflict that’s getting bigger. And guess what? All this happens without being in your face that’s so typical of Bollywood sports dramas.
There’re, at least, three parallel tracks a la Chak De! India which culminates on hockey and how the game can be the best ambassador for a people. While two players jostle for the center forward’s space, others feel comfortable with players from their own vicinity. Reema Kagti has tactfully weaved in small snippets from players' lives to talk about larger issues. It’s so good to see such a mainstream patriotic film not resorting to Pakistan bashing. On the other hand, Vineet Kumar Singh (Imtiaz, ex-British India captain who also spearheads the Pakistani team after independence) ensures we treat them as passionate players and former allies in our collective freedom struggle.
This is an extension of what Akshay has been doing in films like Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Padman, but he has championed the art of mixing with other characters and being comfortable in his own skin. This is so vital for a story like Gold where a superstar's presence could take the focus away from the theme. He is there but not on the ground. His powers are limited and the game doesn’t even revolve around him, but that sense of helplessness makes his victory even bigger.
In most of the scenes, somebody else and not Akshay takes charge of the situation. Sometimes it’s Mouni Roy’s Monobina and sometimes it’s Kunal Kapoor’s star hockey player Samraat. A couple of songs and easy to anticipate plot points make Gold slightly less innovative in the second half, but I am ready to overlook them as it catches us by the neck and make us notice the fluidity of the proceedings. Doing so for 153-minutes is definitely not an easy job.
Gold can’t boast of a great CGI though. Actors try to make up for a little slack in pace, but its capacity to moist your eyes at will is Gold’s real strength. Akshay is in top form and this is your must watch Independence Day film.
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