|Movie Reviews > Iqbal
||Salim Merchant, Sulaiman Merchant, Himesh Reshammiya, Kedar, Sarosh, Sukhwinder Singh, Amartya Rahut, Shriram (1)
||Naseruddin Shah, Girish Karnad, Kittu Gidwani, Shreyas Talpade, Kapil Dev, Shweta Prasad, Yatin Karyekar, Prateeksha Lonkar, Elahe Hiptoola
Sports-based themes are rare in Bollywood. Although most Indians are obsessed with the game of cricket, only a handful of films, with cricket as the central theme, have been attempted here.
Nagesh Kukunoors IQBAL not only looks at the sport and the politics that come with it, the film also tells the story of an underdog who aspires to play on the national level. Convincingly narrated and sensitively handled, IQBAL succeeds in touching the core of your heart a number of times in those two hours.
Most importantly, IQBAL works because you want the underdog, an 18-year-old deaf and mute village boy, to succeed in his endeavor. The youngster rises from the ashes, faces roadblocks at every step, falls time and again, but gets up and reaches the winning post in the end.
All through this journey, the viewer empathizes with Iqbal since Kukunoor attempts to mirror the hardships a small-time guy faces when he dares to dream. Treating the story in the most realistic fashion, IQBAL works due to [a] Straight-out-of-life setting, [b] Never-say-die spirit of the underdog, [c] Deft execution of the subject, [d] Strong undercurrent of emotions throughout and [e] Expert performances by every member of the cast.
The film tells the story of Iqbal [Shreyas Talpade], an 18-year-old boy. Born to a farmer [Yateen Karyekar], Iqbal lives in a small village somewhere in Andhra Pradesh. Cricket is his religion and he aspires to join the Indian cricket team some day.
Iqbal faces obstacles at every step. His father dislikes cricket. Iqbal has no means or financial help to undergo training. But his school-going sister [Shweta Prasad] encourages him to pursue his dreams. Subsequently, Iqbal convinces a village drunkard, Mohit [Naseeruddin Shah], to coach him.
But the road to victory is far from rosy. The rival coach [Girish Karnad] acts as a major impediment. But Iqbal overcomes all obstacles in the end.
After attempting films like HYDERABAD BLUES [and its sequel], ROCKFORD, BOLLYWOOD CALLING and 3 DEEWAREIN, Kukunoor steps into a fresh domain with IQBAL. IQBAL not only looks at the sport [cricket] and unravels the story of a youth, it also tells the story of an underdog who succeeds in life.
Although a number of Bollywood films have highlighted the meteoric rise of those who start from ground level, IQBAL is different in the sense that not once does it tend to get formulaic. The director narrates the story in the most realistic fashion; the hurdles that crop up at every step and how the protagonist solves it seem straight out of life and are easily identifiable.
Right from the time Iqbal practices all alone in a field, to the time he convinces a drunkard to coach him, till the finale, Iqbal is like any one of us, who has been ridiculed, has faced hardships and oppositions all along, never got the support he desired, but who silences his detractors and races past all those who attempt to pull him down. In the triumph of Iqbal lies the triumph of the film!
The constant bickering at home, the relationship between Iqbal and his father, mother and sister, the clandestine training sessions, the dirty politics that the budding cricketer faces and the finale -- these are moments that cannot be erased from your memory!
But the film is not without minor blemishes --
* One, the footage devoted to the training [Naseer-Shreyas] gets cumbersome after a point.
* Two, the post-interval portions get quite slow-paced.
* Three, the second half is lengthy and can easily do with some trimming.
* Four, you don feel euphoric in the penultimate cricket match, like you did while watching the cricket match in LAGAAN.
As a storyteller, IQBAL is Kukunoors most accomplished work to date. Kukunoor has matured into a fine storyteller and this is evident when he handles the emotional moments with flourish. The strong dose of emotions would melt even the stone-hearted, no two opinions on that!
Besides, Kukunoor has extracted superb performances from the entire cast. Although IQBAL stars two doyens -- Naseeruddin Shah and Girish Karnad -- in pivotal roles, the four actors you notice aren big names, yet deliver sterling performances.
IQBAL belongs to Shreyas Talpade from start to end. Although the actor has featured in a few films in the past, IQBAL is akin to a re-launch vehicle for him, giving him ample scope to display histrionics. And the actor hits a boundary this time! Cast in a role where he has to convey through gestures, Shreyas deserves distinction marks for living the role to the optimum.
Matching Shreyas at every step is the supremely talented Shweta Prasad, who made her debut in MAKDEE. While she stole the show in that film, Shweta does something similar in IQBAL, matching an actor like Naseeruddin Shah in some sequences. Another round of awards awaits the youngster after IQBAL.
Yateen Karyekar is fantastic as the helpless father, who shares a bitter-sweet relationship with his son. Pratiksha Lonkar, as Iqbals mother, is natural all the way. Naseer is wonderful, as always, while Karnad, seen after a gap in Hindi films, is truly first-rate in a role with negative shades. Kapil Dev is okay in a brief appearance.
On the whole, IQBAL is a well-made film that caters to an audience that prefers watching realistic films. As a critique, the film deserves no less than 3.5 stars, however, at the box-office, the film should be patronized by the multiplex crowd at metros mainly. A strong person-to-person recommendation will enable it to hold on its own!