A title like LAHORE gives you the feeling that it’s an Indo-Pak story. The fact is, it is, but it’s about kick-boxing, a sport that hasn’t been presented on celluloid before, at least on the Hindi screen. Cricket, boxing, hockey and football have found their way on the Hindi screen, but kick-boxing, not to my knowledge. Sure, there are references to the precarious Indo-Pak relations in a few sequences, but let’s get one thing clear. This is not a ‘war film’. There’s no slogan-shouting or Pak-bashing here. There’s no jingoism either. In fact, the culmination to the story — a shocker, which is sure to raise eyebrows — is absolutely outstanding and will work with both the nations. LAHORE isn’t about kick-boxing only. It’s about relationships — between two nations and also between two brothers — with a strong undercurrent of emotions. It’s the emotional quotient, besides the penultimate do-or-die match, that tilts things in its favour. Final word? Take a trip to LAHORE. If you’re a sportsman or even if you’re not, catch this one for sure! The selection of the Indian kick-boxing team is to be done. The final stage of qualification is in process. Amidst all this there is a minister [K. Jeeva], who wants his favourite participant to be selected; a coach [Farooque Shaikh], who wants merit to be the order of the day; an aspirant [Sushant Singh], who dreams to qualify purely on the basis of his merit; another aspirant [Kelly Dorji], who is over-confident, well connected and aims high to represent India. The focus shifts to Kuala Lumpur. Two opponents, Dhirendra Singh [Sushant Singh] from India comes face to face with Noor Mohammad [Mukesh Rishi] from Pakistan. But an unexpected incident takes place. The sports fraternity stands numb. The two nations meet in Lahore for a fresh kick-boxing tournament. This time, Noor Mohammed comes face to face with Virendra Singh [Aanaahad], Dhirendra’s brother. Winning the game is not the only thing on his mind. Virendra wants to settle some old scores and restore the lost pride of the nation. Debutante director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan gives you an insight of what to expect at the very start of the film. Thereafter, he unravels two tracks that run concurrently all through the first hour. The first track pertains to the relationship between the brothers and the second, the two neighbours — India and Pakistan — preparing to outdo each other in the boxing ring. The highpoint of the film are the kick-boxing duels — in Kuala Lumpur first [first half] and Lahore [second half] later. The sequence at the interval is shocking and one looks forward to an equally exhilarating second hour. But the story dips in the post-interval portions, primarily because you know where it is headed. The subtle romance between Aanaahad and Shraddha Das is well knitted, but a cricketer [Aanaahad] getting chosen to represent India for an altogether different sport [kick-boxing] is a bit difficult to absorb, although the director has justified the decision by depicting sequences where Aanaahad is shown getting trained in kick-boxing. Yet, despite that, it appears like a cinematic liberty. But the moment the Indian team sets foot in Lahore, right till the culmination, the film regains the lost ground and moves into a completely new zone. The matches, shot deftly, are pulse-pounding and even if you’re not a sportsperson or haven’t watched a kick-boxing tournament before, you can’t help but remain hooked to the proceedings. The fight-to-finish duel is simply outstanding! Debutante director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan has the makings of a highly skilled storyteller. The film has won applause and awards at various international film festivals and very deservingly so! Aiding the director in his mission are two people — the person who executed the kick-boxing sequences [action director: Tony Leung Siu Hung] and the cinematographer [Neelabh Kaul], who has captured them with such precision. There’s not much scope for music [M.M. Kreem] in the film, while the background score [Wayne Sharpe] is effectual. The production design [Kesto Mondal] deserves special praise. Farooque Shaikh is top notch. Saurabh Shukla compliments him well. Sabyasachi Chakraborty is incredible. Sushant Singh enacts his part efficiently. Shraddha Nigam is good. Mukesh Rishi conveys a lot through silence. Shraddha Das carries the Pakistani look well. Nafisa Ali is restrained. Ashish Vidyarthi is proficient. K. Jeeva is perfect. Kelly Dorji impresses. Nirmal Pandey gets minimal scope. As for Aanaahad, it’s the role of a lifetime. It may not be a conventional launch, but the fact is that the role seems tailor-made for him and he performs it with gusto.
On the whole, LAHORE is a small little gem that takes you by surprise and catches you completely unaware. The finale in the boxing ring itself is worth the price of the ticket and more. I suggest, you make time for this one.