This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
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USA: Oye! Times readers Get FREE $30 to spend on Amazon, Walmart…Bollywood has seen many films that have been based on sports like cricket, hockey, football etc. In the recent times, there was the Priyanka Chopra starrer biopic MARY KOM that brought the game of boxing in the public eye and gave it the (due) credit it deserved. This week's release SAALA KHADOOS too takes an inside look in the world of boxing. Will the film deliver a knockout punch at the box-office or will it hang its gloves, let's analyse.
The film starts off with the introduction of Adi Tomar aka Adi (R. Madhavan), who, by profession, happens to be a coach of the girls' boxing team. Courtesy the dirty politics (wherein he is falsely accused of sexual harassment), he gets transferred to Chennai. Adi is now on a lookout for a girl who has the much required passion for the sport and fire in her belly. And his search ends in the most unlikely person for the job Madhi (Ritika Singh), who, despite being a fisherwoman by profession, is a born talent in boxing and she idolises Mohammad Ali. After having agreed to pay Rs. 500 per day towards her training, Adi takes her under his wing. On the other hand, Madhi's elder sister Lakshmi aka Laks (Mumtaz Sorcar) also happens to be a boxer wanting to get into police department so that she can take care of the family. Seeing Adi's closeness and confidence in Madhi, Laks plays a dirty game with her own sister, this resulting in Madhi's ouster from an important match. Unaware of the real reason for Madhi's dismal performance, Adi gets wild on her at her poor performance and throws her away from his life and training. Situations then take a U-turn which leads to the imprisonment of Madhi who also escapes from being a prey of chief selector's desires. What action of Madhi leads her to be jailed, who is the person who tries to take advantage of her, does Adi ever get to coach his once favourite student Madhi all over again, what ultimately happens to Adi and Madhi is what forms the rest of the story.
First things first. One has to simply give it to the film's director Sudha Kongara Prasad for bringing out a film that is simply a class apart. While she has already made films in the South (ANDHRA ANDAGADU, DROHI), SAALA KHADOOS marks her directorial debut in Bollywood. In addition to SAALA KHADOOS, she has also directed the Tamil version of the film IRUDHI SUTTRU, which has a different tone and content from the Hindi version. Besides directing the film, Sudha Kongara Prasad is also the writer of SAALA KHADOOS. And she excels superlatively in both the departments. Her stint of being an assistant director to filmmaker Mani Ratnam for nearly seven years seems to have paid rich dividend and it shows in the film in the form of a tight and crisp screenplay. Director Sudha Kongara deserves distinction marks. This one's straight from the heart. Full marks to her for convincingly depicting a story of an underdog girl and her coach fighting against all the odds as they race towards victory. In addition to this, she has not only highlighted upon the existing (dirty) politics in the sports of boxing, but also the sorry plight of the players who represent India on an international level. While the film's narrative is fast and doesn't lag at any place, the sad part is that the film's dialogues lack the much needed 'punch'.
As far as the performances are concerned, it is the film's lead stars R. Madhavan and debutante Ritika Singh who carry the film on their shoulders right from the start to the end. R. Madhavan delivers an extraordinary and extremely realistic performance. His hard work and dedication shows in every step of his performance. Right from attaining the perfectly toned body to his impeccable control over his emotions, R. Madhavan comes a clean winner. His chemistry with Ritika has to be seen to be believed. As far as Ritika Singh is concerned, she is definitely a revelation and a find of Bollywood. She is not just a firebrand, but also surely a name to watch out for. Despite being a debutante, she doesn't show any signs of nervousness. Her being a real life martial arts expert has helped her immensely while delivering such flawless performance. Do not miss the nail biting finale. While Nasar and Zakir Hussain are first rate, Mumtaz Sorcar and also the couple who play Ritika's parents are extremely endearing and believable, which adds to the film's narrative. Every character in the film shines in his own right.
The film's music (Santhosh Narayanan) is limited to one romantic song, which is decent. The background music (Santhosh Narayanan) is good. While the film's cinematography (Sivakumar Vijayan) is average and could have been better, the film's editing (Sathish Suriya) is watertight and crisp. A special word of mention to the film's boxing scenes, which have been done by the Hollywood stunt choreographer Tom Delmar (whose works can be seen in films like ALIENS, JAMES BOND FILMS, SNATCH, STAR WARS II).
A special word of mention to R. Madhavan and Raju Hirani for having backed a film like SAALA KHADOOS as producers.
On the whole, SAALA KHADOOS is an euphoric and electrifying film with amazing performances from the lead cast. It is definitely engaging, and inspiring. It truly deserves an ovation and is worth your time and money. SAALA KHADOOS delivers a solid punch. Winner!