[tps_footer]What happens when a maverick coach, a rude, anti-establishment outsider meets a rebellious troublemaker who has a natural talent for hitting people? Besides a cliché of a sports story, ‘Saala Khadoos’ tries to bridge the diverse filmmaking and viewing styles of Hindi and Tamil cinemas.
Made in both languages, director Sudha Kongara bases parts of the story on reality — politics and sexual exploitation in Indian sport is neither unknown nor unreported. The story of an underdog, two in this particular case, is always endearing to watch even if the graph of their journey and the ultimate triumph usually run on expected paths. In that sense, ‘Saala Khadoos’ is not unusual, though it tries to break barriers by setting itself in a sport that is viewed as a male domain (also done well by ‘Chak De India’), using a female protagonist and boxing (a-la ‘Mary Kom’).
A forever angry and much maligned former boxer-turned coach Adi (Madhavan) gets tossed around by the boxing administration, led by an exploitative head, Dev (Zakir Hussain) before he finds himself in no-hope Chennai. As luck would have it, Adi finds the uncut diamond in Madhi (Ritika Singh), a local fisherwoman with a temper to match his, and so begins their tumultuous relationship — one trying to make a boxer out of the other, the other trying to make a quick buck.
Writer and first-time director Sudha Kongara keeps the story flowing crisply, evading sundry characters and complications while evenly weaving in a sibling rivalry. However she slips into easy plot points, simplification of the struggle and introduces an uneasy love story. Besides several clichés in the story flow, the refreshing qualities are the gritty sets and the casting of a real-life mixed martial arts fighter, Ritika Singh. She makes an impressive debut in a role that’s not restricted to her exhibiting athleticism.
Madhavan looks the part as the past-his-prime boxer-turned coach, but speeds through his dialogue delivery which makes him hard to understand. Yet he manages to create a connection with the audience as the ethical coach who believes in the sanctity of sport and competition. Saala Khadoos is a formulaic, though watchable sports drama with fine performances.[/tps_footer]