Bollywood Film Review “Saala Khadoos”

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First, the Recap:

Rooting for the underdog. Isn’t that always a fantastic thing to do? Watching someone rise to the challenge when all others are doubting and spreading the word that there is no chance whatsoever this person can make it to the top. Then it takes those few additional people to stand firm behind the dark horse, encouraging them that they have what it takes to triumph, even potentially at the cost of their own reputation. Former boxing champ turned trainer Adi Tomar (R. Madhavan) is a master at seeing potential. Unceremoniously ostracized from teaching after a politically-fueled lawsuit is tendered against him, Adi’s hope to continue in the sport he’s loved and nurtured for so long seems at its final stage.

But, when circumstances bring him into the path of a born and bred Chennai fishmonger, Madhi (Ritika Singh), who appears to be a natural fighter, Adi has renewed hope for a comeback to the ring via his possible champion.  A carefree and reckless soul, Madhi initially despises the thought of being trained by Adi. Thanks to monetary incentive plus the involvement of her boxer sister Lux (Mumtaz Sorcar), Madhi goes all in.  However, as with any relationship, tensions rise and Adi’s past rears up to cause issues between the pair. This, along with pressures from his former friend and boxing coach Dev (Zakir Hussain), who has his own agenda for Madhi, threatens to undo all the hard work to get her to a championship for India.

Next, my Mind:

Having the honor of directing his first major Bollywood feature film, writer Sudha Kongara takes the ever so familiar boxing narrative, seen most prolifically via the Hollywood-produced “Rocky” films, and not only manages to turn the primary protagonist into a woman, but does so with a fresh flare and humor/drama combination that sets it completely apart from its American counterpart, while still retaining the themes that make films of this nature entertaining and emotionally viable. With solid cinematography that showcases the highs and lows of Indian society, the people therein, and the sport in question, while intertwining this with the greater scope of concept presented, the viewer cannot help but be drawn into this volatile world where a young woman from the Chennai slums can rise up and become something more.

Madhavan’s character Adi is the embodiment of the down and out former champ whose sometimes overtly harsh demeanor and training techniques mask the determined, compassionate, and deeply heartfelt man he is in his desire to see students become winners. This complete and potent character is so well portrayed by Madhavan thanks to his literal intimidating size and honest acting.  But one must truly see the wonder that is relative newcomer Ritika Singh who absolutely steals the show as Madhi, playing her with enough passion, sass, bravado, and pathos-filled intentionality for at least two actresses and then some.  Her raw delivery and mix of vulnerability and toughness sells itself so believably here one cannot resist cheering her to victory.

With a solid supporting cast including Hussain and Nasser, “Saala Khadoos” is a fantastic entry into the Bollywood film world, the sports film world as a whole, and another shining tale of the ability of human beings to excel beyond their original means when given the chance.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


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