In a scene from Reema Kagti's "Gold", Mouni Roy, who plays the protagonist's wife, is making lunch for 20 hockey players. In between furiously chopping vegetables and instructing helpers to work faster, she says "I am not prepping for lunch, I am preparing to avenge the slavery of 200 years."
For all the ludicrousness of the dialogue, it is at least one of the moments in this 170-minute film that makes you sit up and take notice, even if for the wrong reasons. Kagti and co-writer Rajesh Devraj do everything they can to lull the audience into a stupor, with the storyline vacillating between patriotism and a sports team coming into its own.
A chronicle of the Indian team winning its first Olympic gold medal in field hockey after gaining independence from the British in 1947, "Gold" seems to want to conflate sporting success with the rise of a newly independent country, but pays lip service to this theme. What we get is Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) talking about freedom and pride while cobbling together a hockey team.
Das is the manager when the Indian team, then under British rule, win the field hockey gold at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, but it hurts him to see the players bowing before the Union Jack. He vows that when India is freed from colonial rule, he will ensure they win the hockey gold medal and avenge years of British rule and atrocities in India.
Leave aside the logical fallacy in sporting victory as revenge for social and political ills, but “Gold” doesn’t even get its basics right. It stretches interminably, devoting too much time to song and dance and not enough to developing characters and conflicts. The dynamics within the team are cliched and Kagti does nothing to add new flavour to it.
Instead, the film is full of every stereotype one can think of. The evil British official who smirks when the Indians lose, the manipulative and petty Indian official who wants to further his own cause, and the hero who arrives to rescue the team at the last minute - they all get their share of the spotlight.
Even the scenes on the pitch lack drama or emotion, with Kagti relying on a "Chak De India" style last-minute speech, a genius intervention by her protagonist and a rousing rendition of the national anthem to add some much-needed vigour in the climax, but it is too little too late. Akshay Kumar as the over-the-hill manager who has one last shot at history is unconvincing, while the rest of the cast, including Kunal Kapoor and Amit Sadh, appear to be going through the motions. Mouni Roy, the film's female lead, gets limited screen time as a sometimes violent, shrew-like wife who thinks nothing of slapping her husband and patronizing him every chance she gets.
“Gold” is a lackluster film that doesn’t seem too sure of itself. And coming from a director who has done better, it is a colossal disappointment.
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