<HR style="COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=1>The number of Bollywood movies I have watched in a theatre in the past 5 years hardly totals up to a dozen. Somehow, my patience wears thin when I am in the midst of blaring sound and non- stop whistles and more than life size figures, semi or hardly clad! I watched Shivaji recently, for the sake of my twin sons…and agreed with my BIL who said, “Leave your brain outside the theatre and enjoy the visuals…” I watched Guru before that and spent half the time admiring the good histrionic talent of Abhishek Bachchan blossoming under the direction of Mani Ratnam…the other half spent on tolerating with little grace, the plastic smiles and wooden acting of Aishwarya Rai! I watched KANK and kept kicking myself for my idiocy in wasting good money and time watching crap! But yesterday, I spent a good three hours in a theatre, mesmerized by one man and his team of 16 girls… Not just I, the entire theatre, filled to capacity, kids of various ages et al… watched it with dedication. There were moments when there was pin drop silence in the theatre… It was as though sheer patriotism permeated the theatre… ( though I am positive there were not only Indians inside that theatre…) I impulsively punched the air in a sense of exhilaration when the Indian women’s hockey team won their second match against <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region><st1lace>Germany</st1lace></st1:country-region>… immediately, conscious about my surroundings I glanced around and saw many other hands up in the air! Such is the fervour the movie creates in you. For once I saw a movie without inane song sequences, without a heroine or a romantic angle, with a superstar who chucks away his typical idiosyncrasies… a movie with a message for the cricket crazy country. Playing for <st1:country-region><st1lace>India</st1lace></st1:country-region>… the idea is beautifully reinforced in the first day in the camp… when the girls learn to declare themselves as part of Team <st1:country-region><st1lace>India</st1lace></st1:country-region>… The 16 girls, right down to the delightful ‘Ho …Ho…’Jarkhand girl Suimoi (?) steal your heart. The characters of Preeti Sabharwal, Alia Bose, Koaml Chautala, BAlbir Kaur, Vidya Sharma and of course, the negatively shaded Bindiya Naik are extremely well drawn. One doesn’t get the feeling that these are actors… It is as though the women’s team is out there battling for honour for <st1:country-region><st1lace>India</st1lace></st1:country-region>…Their problems of ego, domestic issues, regionalism and personal glory are all shelved when they are motivated to play as Indians, for the team…rather than for themselves. And naturally, they reap gold for that! The strength of the movie lies in the controlled portrayal of Kabir Khan, the coach. For the first time in my life I wanted to give a standing ovation to King Khan on his performance as an actor. Oh… he deserves that title for this movie. I suppose I should say hats off to Shimit Amin for c..c..c..controlling Khan’s penchant for overacting… Thank God for not giving us that shaking head, that irritating grimace called smile… Till today I have had the misfortune of watching Sharukh Khan in every movie of his. Yesterday, I saw Kabir Khan, the coach, Kabir Khan, the man implicated by media as traitor rising as phoenix from the ashes of a debacle, as an Indian who is beyond regionalism and religion. Excellent performance there… The music, I suppose, there is only one song…. the title song…adds to the nationalistic sentiment that beats in your heart, the patriotic adrenaline that courses through your veins, and makes you feel so proud of those 16 wonderful girls and the one man who prove everyone wrong! At the end of the three hours, you feel good. I loved the shot of Dhyan Singh’s statue in front of the Delhi Stadium…and also the initiation of the girls into Team India… the coach giving permission to Balbir Kaur to use violence in their match against Argentina (tit for tat tactics), the way, the most experienced player, Naik, gets back to the team, all resentment and grouses laid to rest, to play for her team against Korea… the way Preeti Sabarwal and the adorable Komal Chautala learn to bury the hatchet… The movie shows a lot of unsavoury truth… the intrusiveness of present day media, the bureaucracy of national sports associations, the politics (?) involved in sports, the attitude towards Hockey in <st1:country-region><st1lace>India</st1lace></st1:country-region> as opposed to Cricket... the chauvinistic attitude towards women’s sports and the typical mob instinct of a people in denouncing a man without any rational thinking. The movie is like the rise of a phoenix from its own ashes… the phoenix called Kabir Khan, the phoenix called women’s sports…the phoenix called Indian Hockey! On the whole, it is a ‘must – see’ film for you … if you are an Indian… if you are a sports buff… or if you are someone who enjoys a darn good movie!