Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad, Kittu Gidwani, Shreyas Talpade, Prateeksha Lonkar
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Sports
"You listen to me. Iqbal is not a statistic."
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 02/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Even if you're not a cricket enthusiast - as I'm not - there's still very much something to this movie. IQBAL isn't your typical Bollywood cinema. There aren't splashy musical numbers. There are no silly stabs at humor and histrionics. And, at barely over two hours long, it's shorter than most Bollywood pictures. IQBAL is a low key story and, while its unlikely premise may initially hook in the audience, it relies on the cast's sensitive acting to keep folks riveted in their seats.
In a poor tiny village in India, 18-year-old Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade) wakes up each day and tends to the buffaloes. But, somewhen during, he'll find time to cater to his big, big passion, his love for cricket. In this sport, he gravitates towards bowling, feeling that the batsmen get all the glory. Iqbal's hopes and dreams revolve around his someday making the cricket national team. Never mind that he's a child of severe poverty and that his stern father doesn't easily suffer frivolities, on which list he numbers the game of cricket. Never mind, too, that this kid is deaf and mute. IQBAL is an underdog story, and it's fairly terrific.
It helps that Iqbal is loved and supported by his understanding mother (Prateeksha Lonkar) and by his little sister Khadija (Shweta Prasad), both of whom go so far as to engage in subterfuge with Iqbal to circumvent his disapproving father, who fervently holds that it's wasteful to take time out from work to watch cricket. Iqbal receives one more year of grace and leisure from his father, at the end of which he, too, must then work the fields. With one year to realize Iqbal's near impossible goal, it's his young sister who makes the first move. Khadija gets him an interview with the local cricket coach, which then leads to Iqbal attending the neighborhood cricket academy. But, heartbreakingly, this doesn't work out (farm boys and rich kids don't mix), and Iqbal is dismissed from academy.
On the verge of giving up, Iqbal gets a longshot second chance in the form of the village drunk Mohit (Naseeruddin Shah). Iqbal learns that Mohit was once a promising cricketeer and Iqbal "talks" him into becoming his coach. That this cliched plot device works so well hinges on Naseeruddin Shah's grounding presence, as well as Shreyas Talpade's expressiveness and soulful demeanor. The rest of the film unfolds in sports film formula, which isn't such a knock on this film because the the cast and the script transform this formula into something so watchable. We suspect that the old drunk will find redemption in the molding of his student. We're resigned to the inevitable training montages (and there's even a Rocky moment as Iqbal climbs on top of a tall bale of hay and, with abandon, raises his arms to the sky). And we sniff out the big, all-important match at the end.
But, a few things. The father's strong disdain of cricket doesn't seem to be entirely convincing. Also, the presence of the underhanded academy coach serves to ressurect a conventional Bollywood cliche. The biggest nuh-uh for me, though, is probably the ease with which Iqbal mows down his opposing batsmen, despite that, in his village and for all his life, he'd only ever practiced and honed his bowling skills with the help of stumps. Facing off against batsmen for the first time, Iqbal to me seems to overcome this dilemma rather too quickly. Still, maybe his mojo is that strong.
Shreyas Talpade and Naseeruddin Shah do their damn thing, but Shweta Prasad, the little girl who plays Iqbal's sister Khadija, is so natural and just as key. Khadija is Iqbal's anchor and his bridge to the outside world. Prasad and Talpade's rapport is amazing and these two actors' scenes together provide some of the film's best, most heartwarming moments. Factor in, too, Naseeruddin Shah's great chemistry with both Talpade and Prasad. The interactions among these three are superb, sometimes poignant and sometimes fraught with humor.
This dvd, by the way, also comes with a 14-minute-long Making Of featurette, as well as edited segments of the cast and crew accepting a bundle of awards at the 12th Annual Star Screen Awards. Again, there aren't musical numbers, so there isn't a song selection option. It would've been a little funny, though, if the mute Iqbal had started belting out songs...
I've only seen a few sports-themed Hindi films that are worth a peep; IQBAL, released in 2005, is one of these. It's a quieter film and doesn't quite boast the fervor and energy of Chak De India or the rousing nationalistic push of Lagaan - Once Upon a Time in India. IQBAL, thematically, also shares a commonality with Goal! - The Dream Begins, a pretty good movie which came out in the same year, about a young Latino in America who becomes a professional soccer player in England. But Iqbal is even more an underdog character and, odds are, you'll find yourself rooting for this kid, who goes about achieving his dream with stolid persistence and gentle exuberance, refusing the whole time to allow his impairments to deter him. The cricket-mad populace of India probably ate this one up, but as I got drawn in by the unassuming humanity and warmth of the film, it struck me that IQBAL isn't so much about the sport of cricket as it is about the perseverance of the human spirit."