Saala Khadoos helmed by Sudha Kongara is a well concocted inspiring flick not only about boxing but also about determination, selfless love of a guru (coach) towards his shishya (protege) and red-tapism, politics prevalent in sports bodies of our country. To begin with, if we start to count the number of competent sports movies made in our country, we can count them on fingers. This is a genre which has lot of potential but unfortunately very few filmmakers have tried to helm movies on this genre. Barring, Bhag Milkha Bhag or Mary Kom which were biopics, the only recent film that comes to my mind is Shimit Amin's Chak De. But, Chak De was about Hockey and Saala Khadoos is about boxing. The basic premise of the movie seems to be inspired from the Hollywood flick Million Dollar Baby where Client Eastwood trains his protege played by Hillary Swank. What works heavily in favor of Saala Khadoos are the earnest performances delivered by its star-cast especially the lead pair R.Madhavan and newcomer Ritika Singh. Saala Khadoos is a rugged sports flick which keeps you engrossed in the on-screen proceedings. Generally, movies revolving around sports resort to the formulaic 'emergence of an underdog theme' but Saala Khadoos doesn't travel the beaten path. India has lot of such champs but we need more mavericks who can find out the hidden talents present in our country and than further train and nurture them to become champions. Sudha Kongara shows how true champs get going under the able guidance of their mentors even when the going gets extremely tough. Sudha shows her female protagonist as a born fighter, but than she escalates the drama to showcase how the fierce fighter gets converted into a perpetual winner when she finds her true Dronacharya in the form of a selfless boxing coach. It is her coach who instills the confidence in her to emerge victorious by facing the odds that are stacked up against her. Saala Khadoos portrays enduring mentor-pupil affinity through some really well captured scenes and dialogues.
The story of Saala Khadoos has been penned down by Sudha Kongara who has interlaced the basic premise of pupil-mentor affinity with trajectories like scheming officials in sports bodies, sibling rivalry along with a dash of romance but the narrative has a soaring quality and texture. It simply takes off with any room for breathing space. The breathless quality of storytelling goes well with the protagonist's stormy and mercurial nature. The movie begins by introducing Adi (R. Madhavan) who was a boxer and is presently the coach of girls boxing team. He has a bad equation with a corrupt boxing official (Zakir Hussain) who fabricates a sexual harassment charge against Adi and gets him transferred to Chennai. Adi is quite frustrated as he knows there is no potential in girl boxers of Chennai. Upon reaching Chennai, he comes across Madhi (Ritika Singh) who is a foul-mouthed fisher woman by profession but has a natural penchant for boxing. Adi senses the potential in her and decides to take her under his wings. Since Madhi is reluctant to enter boxing arena, Adi decides to pay her Rs.500 every day to come for boxing training as he sees a champion in her. How Adi manages to train her and convert the fisher woman into a boxing champion is what forms the rest of the story.
R.Madhavan has undeniably delivered the best performance of his career till date in Saala Khadoos and carried the movie on his broad shoulders. Madhavan has imbibed the traits of his character both physically as well as emotionally and ably enacted them on-screen meticulously. R.Madhavan has delivered an exemplary realistic performance which is a testament to his hard work and dedication towards portraying this character. Right from his body language to expressions....everything is pitch perfect in this movie. Madhavan looks totally convincing as the boxing coach who despite his eccentricities is ready to go to any length to groom his protege unto a champion. Truly, a match winning performance.
Ritika Singh as Madhi is a revelation. It is Ritika's spirited portrayal of a pugilist that makes it possible to ignore the flaws in craft as it's hard to point a finger at her performance. Right from the body language of a boxer, to her mercurial temprament and the fight within her, Ritika simply nails it. We see Ritika in two different avatars in this movie; while in the first half she comes across as a carefree, foulmouthed fisher woman ready to pick up fights; in the second half we see a mellowed down avatar of hers who is more focused, determined raring to go. And, to her credit, Ritika is equally convincing and at ease while portraying both these avatars. Ritika literally makes you feel for her character with her brilliant and realistic portrayal.
The musical soundtrack of the movie has been composed by Santosh Narayanan which is average but he scores brownie points for his background music. The cinematographer of the movie is Sivkumar Vijayan who has done a splendid job behind the lens. Right from capturing the aggression in boxing ring, Vijayan's camera glides across capturing the anger and frustration of the movie's protagonists turn into retrieval with effortless ease making it a delight to watch. The movie has been edited by Satish Suriya who has done a crisp job at the editing table and kept the run-time of the movie to 109 minutes. As a writer-director, Sudha Kongara deserves accolades for making this unusual but competent sports film. The way she has conceived and crafted the guru-shishya dynamics in the film is applause-worthy. As a director, Sudha Dongara has made sincere efforts and managed to impress.
One aspect which makes Saala Khadoos worth a watch is that it has its heart and soul at the right place. It might not be as exciting or thrilling as the average Bollywood masala fares but it still manages to entertain you due to earnest performances and inspiring storyline.
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