It’s sacrilegious to dislike a patriotic film as it feels like a disservice to your native country. But Akshay Kumar’s sporting drama Gold, a fictionalised account of the Indian hockey team’s historic win at the 1948 Olympics, doesn’t have much going for it. Barring a few golden moments smattered across a 170-minute runtime, this movie isn’t worth its weight in gold.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s not for the lack of earnest collective efforts. But director Reema Kagti’s sporting epic is bloated to the point of fatigue and there’s simply not enough adrenaline-charged sequences to keep you hooked for nearly three hours.
Kumar plays the flawed rebel Tapan Das, who takes on the onus of resurrecting a fractured Indian hockey team at the 1948 Olympics as India is reeling in the aftermath of gaining independence from British rule. On a bad day, the Bengali sports manager is a glorified porter to his players as he picks up their bags and hockey sticks, but on a good day he’s an inspirational life coach who has a few game strategies up his sleeve.
Das, with an inconsistent Bengali twang, is also what you would call a high-functioning alcoholic who has the propensity to break out into a Bollywood dance in the company of stiff upper-lips. So basically, our hero is alcohol-guzzling and emotionally-charged, but when he isn’t inebriated and dancing on tables he’s fanning patriotic fervour by reminding his boys that they are up against the English team, who colonised India for 200 years. While Kumar’s acting isn’t particularly faulty, it feels a tad monotonous and jaded. This actor’s (who’s fast becoming the Bollywood’s go-to guy for activist roles) monologue towards the climax engulfs you with that been-there-seen-that feeling as he eggs his hockey champions to put their petty politics aside and be bigger men.
While Kagti gets the period detailing right, she falters on the story front. The conflicts within the team and the ego battles will remind you of another superior Hindi hockey film. It’s decidedly unfair to compare films. But when you have a memorable Bollywood blockbuster like Chak De! India starring Shah Rukh Khan as a coach who shepherds his women’s hockey team to victory, it is impossible to shrug off its lasting impressions.
Gold comes across as a poorer imitation of director Shimit Amin’s Chak De! India. The grid of underdog vs Goliath team is stale and we are constantly reminded that India’s win at the 1948 Olympics against the British players is a masters vs slaves battle. It’s a clash of the colonisers vs the colonised.
While Amit Sadh, the privileged royalty, as the vice-captain of the hockey team knocks it out of the park as the slightly arrogant player, Kunal Kapoor pitches in effectively as the stoic hockey champion. Sunny Kaushal as the emotional Punjabi player is endearing. But none of the boys have defining traits that make them memorable. Precious minutes are spent chronicling Tapan Das’ eccentricities and his propensity to dance. Two songs that underlined the revelry were unnecessary and fractured the pace of the sports film. However, the shots featuring the players in London at a packed stadium make for an intriguing watch.
Actress Mouni Roy, who makes her film debut with Gold as Das’ feisty wife, seems like a misfit. Her highly groomed eyebrows and salon-perfect looks work against her. Though there are a few golden moments of sparring between the couple, those scenes are overdone.
A sporting thriller is as good as its climax. While Gold is successful in evoking some patriotic fervour towards the end, the characters fail to leave a lasting impression.
But credit is due to Kagti for not making the film unnecessarily jingoistic. The strands that underlined the political reality of post-Independence India, where religious riots between Hindus and Muslims were raging, was well captured. And for a change, there was no Pakistan bashing in an Indian film with patriotic undertones.
But there’s no ignoring the obvious flaws in Gold.
The film would have benefitted from some heavy-duty trimming and dialling down of Das’ idiosyncrasies and patronage. If this film were to contest, it’s likely to have only walked away with a bronze medal.
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Amit Sadh, Sunny Kaushal, Mouni Roy
Stars: 2.5 out of 5