R Madhavan’s Saala Khadoos is a bit like a boxing bout that vows the very heights of excitement but comes up only with an occasional thrilling moment that fades fast.
And worse, Saala Khadoos weaves its way through a rather stodgy storyline that is only intermittently engaging.
It seeks to make up for its lack of serious heft through means that tend to push the drama dangerously close to tipping point without quite achieving the emotional energy that it seeks.
Saala Khadoos, jointly produced by lead actor R Madhavan and Rajkumar Hirani, follows a known template.
It hinges on the plight of two tough individuals who have had a rough time in life but are in no mood to leave the ring without a fight.
One of these two people is an erstwhile boxer (R Madhavan) who has been pushed into a shell by personal disappointments.
The other is a spirited young girl, a Chennai fish-seller (first-timer Ritika Singh), who has a natural talent for the sport and is a diamond waiting to be polished.
The two join forces with the aim of conquering the world but, no prizes for guessing, their path is strewn with thorns.
Saala Khadoos addresses both the politicking that slows down Indian sport and the lack of opportunities that prevents champions from coming through ranks.
One of the characters in the film is a villainous women’s boxing head coach (Zakir Hussain). He loses no opportunity to make the male protagonist’s life more miserable than it already is.
The girl, too, has a huge battle on her hands against poverty and sibling rivalry. Her father is against her taking up boxing because she is the family’s bread-winner.
Her elder sister (Mumtaz Sorcar) hopes to use the boxing ring as a means to wresting a sports quota job in the police force. She sees her talented younger sister as an impediment.
There is no dearth of drama in Saala Khadoos. What robs the film of genuinely startling moments is the rather predictable trajectory that it follows.
Both the cornered coach who has a point to prove and the rookie pugilist who has nothing to lose are the sort of characters that audiences have seen before.
Virtually every sports films made in recent years has revolved around similar plot devices, with the machinations of corrupt administrators and unhappy rivals thrown into the mix for effect.
The realistic underpinning of Saala Khadoos is somewhat undermined by the ear-splitting and excessive background score and the plethora of songs on the soundtrack.
Saala Khadoos, thanks to Madhavan’s steadily robust performance and Ritika’s infectious energy, has passages in which it punches well above its weight. Unfortunately, such peaks are an exception rather than the rule.
Director: Sudha Kongara; Cast: R Madhavan, Ritika Singh, Mumtaz Sorcar, Nasser, Zakir Hussain, M.K. Raina