Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) is a junior manager for the British Indian hockey team in 1936 when they win in the finals against Germany in Berlin. Twelve year later, he makes a successful return at the Olympics, this time as the joint manager, defeating the British in London and winning the gold. Assisting him in this journey is Samrat (Kunal Kapoor), captain of the 1936 team who returns to coach the next generation, and Tapan’s long-suffering wife Monobina (Mouni Roy), who knows her drunkard husband would one day come to his senses and shine. The star players in his team include Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), the hockey loving prince of a small Northern province, the team’s vice-captain, and Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal), son of a Sikh farmer and the hidden ace of the team.
At close to three hours, it’s a rather long film by today’s standards but such is the film’s pace that you don’t feel the passage of time. Kudos to Anand Subaya for the deft editing.The drama is kept alive throughout by one conflict or the other. Writers Reema Kagti and Rajesh Devraj have made sure to not only give us a peep into the private lives of the players but into the upheavals that the county is going through as well. There is an hugely emotional sequence where the Muslim captain of the team, Imtiaz (Vineet Kumar Singh) comes near to being burnt alive in the riots leading to the Partition and heartbroken as a result, leaves for Lahore. You feel for Akshay as his team gets broken up because most Muslim members follow suit. Then, the snobbish prince played by Amit Sadh is shown to have a soft side when he donates all his clothes to a roadside beggar. Every team is rife with rivalries and intense rivalry is shown here as well between Amit Sadh’s and Sunny Kaushal’s characters. Their divergent backgrounds is shown to be the cause of the problem and it’s the director’s way of saying we have to rise above such prejudices if we have to grow as a nation.
Sports choreography is excellent and you feel you’re actually in the field along with the players. We have only read about India’s early exploits in hockey and it gives you a thrill to see them come alive on screen. Mention must be made also of cinematography by Álvaro Gutiérrez who has captured all the action superbly.
Akshay Kumar essays his role with a loud note and his Bengali accent is truly atrocious. But he does manage to convince you of the madness of Tapan Das, of his love for hockey and ultimately for his motherland. He stands for the minority of sports administrators who actually have the welfare of the players in their hearts and are willing to go beyond the call of duty to achieve that. Mouni Roy infuses the film with a dash of sensuality and her stern wife’s role adds a bit of a comic touch as well. Kunal Kapoor as the strict coach and Vineet Kumar Singh as the Pakistani captain lend gravitas. Amit Sadh and Sunny Kaushal ace in their roles. Sadh looks royal to a T, mucking around with the boys on the field willingly enough but aware of the class divide beyond it. Kaushal is perfect as a hot-headed son-of-soil whose heart beats for his country. You feel his angst and you celebrate along with him when overcoming all hurdles, he finally scores for India.
Gold is Reema Kagti’s Lagaan. It has been established from the start that the Indian team is playing to avenge the two hundred years of slavery at the hands of the British. Your heart hammers against your chest when they reach the finals and then manage to win against the British team. You automatically get up when the Indian national anthem gets played at the awards ceremony and the team captain is presented with the gold medal. There’s a silly grin on your face as forgetting the grim reality of today, you feel proud to be an Indian, for a few moments at least…
Trailer : Gold