UTV Motion Pictures, Tricolour Films and Rajkumar Hirani Films’ Saala Khadoos (UA) is the story of a boxing coach and an ordinary fisherwoman who he trains to make a world champion.
Adi (R. Madhavan) is a boxing coach who trains girls. He is always at loggerheads with the wily head coach for women boxers, Dev Khatri (Zakir Hussain). While Adi is all for the boxing sport, Dev Khatri sexually exploits girls by misusing his position. To seek revenge on Adi, Dev Khatri has him transferred to Madras which is one of the weakest regions in India as far as the sport of women’s boxing is concerned.
In Madras, Adi sees potential in a fisherwoman, Madhi (Ritika Singh). Madhi’s sister, Laxmi (Mumtaz Sorcar), is actually training to be a boxer to gain entry into the police force in the sports quota. Adi, who is known for his acidic tongue and no-nonsense nature, would do anything for the love of boxing. He lures Madhi into the sport by actually paying her a daily allowance to train under him – and this be cause he sees in her the potential of a champion.
Madhi, initially reluctant, starts training under Adi and wins the inter-zonal tournament. She actually starts enjoying the sport and, in the process, falls in love with coach Adi who is old enough to be her father. Adi dismisses off her love as mere infatuation and asks her to be focussed in life. But Madhi’s sister, Laxmi, insecure as she is about her own career prospects and about not getting the same attention as Madhi from coach Adi, sees red in Madhi’s closeness to and fondness for Adi. Laxmi plays a cruel game because of which Madhi loses an important tournament. Unaware of the real reason for her defeat, Adi admonishes Madhi for performing so poorly and disowns her.
Soon thereafter, the lecherous Dev Khatri includes Madhi in a cultural exchange tournament and calls her to Delhi just so that he can get physical with her. Does Madhi give in to Dev’s machinations?
A turn of events lands Madhi in police custody but Adi bails her out. Realising that she still has the fire in her belly, he includes her name in the national selection tournament as a wild card entry. Does Madhi live up to the faith Adi has reposed in her? Does she qualify for the finals in the national tournament? Does she go on to compete in the international women’s boxing championship? Does Dev Khatri raise his evil head once again? When does this happen? And what does Dev actually do and why?
Sudha Kongara has written a heartwarming story about how a coach, for the love of the boxing sport, surmounts all obstacles to make a champion out of an ordinary fisherwoman in whom he sees a spark. The story may lack novelty value as it reminds of earlier sports films like Chak De! India but it still has its own graph, its own turns and twists and its own drama. The screenplay, penned by Sudha Kongara and Sunandha Raghunathan, with additional screenplay by Rajkumar Hirani and R. Madhavan, is engaging and engrossing. Its pace is fast because of which the viewers don’t get time to think and, in fact, keenly wait for the happenings to unfold. The track of the crack in the relationship between the two sisters is novel. The climax is quite exciting. The screenplay writers have kept an emotional thread running through the entire drama, which could moisten the eyes of the faint-hearted. The best part of the screenplay is that it is very real and makes the audiences forget that they are watching a film.
Dialogues, written by Manoj Tapadia and Amitabh S. Verma, with additional dialogues by Rajkumar Hirani and R. Madhavan, are excellent and complement the screenplay beautifully.
Madhavan gives his hundred per cent to the role. He delivers a memorable performance, using his eyes and body language supremely effectively. His performance is so wonderfully understated that one can’t help but marvel at his genius. He has worked hard on his physique to look like a boxing coach and he deserves full marks on that count too. Ritika Singh shines in her debut role. She is a kick-boxer in real life and her knowledge of the sport comes in handy in essaying the role but even otherwise, her truly natural performance belies the fact that this is her maiden attempt at acting. It looks like she was born to play this role. Mumtaz Sorcar delivers a superb performance as Laxmi alias Lux. She makes her character very believable. Zakir Hussain is extraordinary as the lecherous head coach, evoking hatred for the character, with his lovely performance. Nasser is first-rate as the junior coach in Madras. His acting touches the heart and he adds emotional value to the drama. M.K. Raina has his moments. Kaali Venkat is very effective as Madhi’s good-for-nothing father. Baljinder Kaur is also good, playing Madhi’s mother with a lot of sincerity. Bipin leaves a mark as Innocent. Swanand Kirkire delivers a heartfelt performance in a brief role as the shopkeeper. All the other actors lend adequate support. Special mention must be made of casting director Mukesh Chhabra for assembling a bunch of talented actors in the cast.
Sudha Kongara’s direction is very nice. Her narrative style, like the script, keeps the audience asking for more. The fast pace is another plus point about her narration. Music (by Santhosh Narayanan) is effective and complements the story, even taking it forward sometimes and establishing the characters at other times. But the songs are not at all popular. Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics are very appropriate to the drama. Dinesh Master’s choreography is realistic. Sanjay Wandrekar and Atul Raninga’s background music is extraordinary. The duo has done a swell job of the background score which heightens the impact of the scenes manifold. Sivakumar Vijayan’s camerawork is remarkable. Tom Delmar’s action and ‘Stunner’ Sam’s stunts are lovely. Production designing (by T. Santhanam) is of a good standard. Sathish Suriya’s editing is crisp.
On the whole, Saala Khadoos is a heartwarming entertainer which will grow by positive word of mouth. But its low-key promotion and ineffective trailers have ensured a very dull opening for the film and given that the game today is of the first weekend, its box-office prospects will, unfortunately, not at all match its merits.