Whenever a country goes through troubled times, and needs something to motivate the populace into positivity, patriotism is the low hanging fruit always plucked by film-makers. Some are crude and jingoistic, some, like Reema Kagti with her new film Gold (and Meghna Gulzar before her with Raazi), check all the boxes without being inflammatory.
Gold is a fictionalised account of India’s historic hockey win in the 1948 Olympics, significant because it was for the first time India participated as an independent nation; the earlier three golds were won for British India. At the 1936 match in Berlin, won by Indians led by Samrat (Kunal Kapoor)—in reality the legendary Dhyan Chand– against Germans on their home turf, with Hitler himself in the stands, the British flag was hoisted. But the team’s manager Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) surreptitiously flashed a glimpse of the Tricolour hidden in his pocket, and the Indians quietly thump their chests.
By the time the 1948 Olympics are announced to be held in London, Tapan Das, who has been fired by the Indian Hockey Federation, and into bad times, has the dream of fielding an Indian team “to avenge 200 years of slavery”. A Mr Wadia, described as a “fine Parsi gentleman” – in reality Naval Tata— gives him the go ahead to scout for players. When he gets a team with skilled players like Imtiaz Shah (Vineet Kumar Singh), an arrogant royal Kunwar Raghuvir Pratap Singh, and the volatile Sardar Himmat Singh, together, India is partitioned; the Muslim player go over to Pakistan, the Anglos to England or Australia.
Tapan has to use all his powers of persuasion and pawn his wife’s (a pouting Mouni Roy) jewellery to train a team again. A ground and boarding are found in a Buddhist monastery in Kanheri Caves, where the players learn the value of unity and team spirit before leaving for England.
The script has pretty much all the sports movie clichés, the drama is amped up by the jealousy of rival manager Mehta (Atul Kale), and the open hostility between Raghuvir and Himmat. The outcome of the historic match (played exactly 70 years ago) is known, so the audience is kept hooked by off-the-field antics.
The production design is immaculate, and because Akshay Kumar is the ‘hero,’ two party songs are fitted in, so that he can dance. The star cannot carry off either a dhoti or a Bengali accent, but makes up for these shortcomings with sincerity, charisma and, yes, a brand of nationalism that has been a hallmark of his films of late. There is no point whipping the Brits now (mostly sneering caricatures), and it’s considered rude to bash Pakistan, so Tapan and his team’s strength is built on national pride—the kind that brings a lump to the throat and the audience to its feet when the Indian flag is hoisted at the end and the national anthem played. For this, the film’s other flaws can be overlooked.
Director: Reema Kagti
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Kunal Kapoor, Mouni Roy, Amit Sadh, Sunny Kaushal and others
Gold is a fictionalised account of India’s historic hockey win in the1948 Olympics, significant because it was for the first time India participated as an independent nation; the earlier three golds were won for British India, writes our film expert, Deepa Gahlot
Posted on Aug 15, 2018
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.