Ready for a bunch of inspirational stories? They were down, they were hopeless, it was all impossible, and then against the odds they rose up again!!!!!! I am going to be so sick of inspiration by Independence Day, hopefully I can still enjoy Gold.
All of these films follow the “serious, important” inspirational film plot style. Which means, the kind that works for middle-aged semi-successful folks, not the kind that works for young people or never-successful folks.
For young people and never-successful people, you just have “talented and never noticed-talent is noticed-achievement unlocked!” That’s the dream, your live has never really started so you are just dreaming of that first chance.
(Rani’s character wasn’t saying “I’ve already got a ton of medals and so on, but it is all meaningless because of ____”, she was saying “just let me play one game!”)
For the oldster audience, different fantasy. Early talent and success-difficulties and failure and forgotten by the world-return to try again, slowly gain respect of those around them-a final impediment, over come with the support of those who now respect you-SUCCESS.
When you get to be around 40, and are living a semi-comfortable life, your youth becomes covered in a haze of nostalgia and you hallucinate that you were more talented and successful than you really were. And you also hallucinate that the worst periods of your past were even worse than they really were, everyone abandoned you and you succeeded all on your own, etc. etc. And in the present you like to hallucinate that you still have obstacles, even though you really don’t, and your final success now will be the real success.
(This was the problem with Raees, he really DIDN’T have obstacles, so they had to bend over backward to invent some)
And thus, these movies! With the middle-aged heroes who were AWESOME when they were young, and are even awesomer now and still (despite all evidence that they are actually already successful) have to fight the world to get what they want. It’s a powerful pattern because it gets into a basic human desire to see yourself as the underdog, always overcoming terrible odds, even if you are actually in a fairly powerful and successful position in society.
All of that is just me being cynical about narrative patterns, doesn’t mean that these aren’t good movies! Gold, for instance, uses the narrative pattern not just to elevate its middle-aged hero Akshay, but the whole concept of India the country. India-the-country already had success in field hockey, but it wasn’t true success, didn’t really count, and that’s why this late in life second chance matters so much.
Also, it’s not just about Akshay, it’s about Akshay contrasting with the younger team. Akshay remembers British India and the old days, but Amit Sadh and Kunal Kapoor and so on represent young India who are still waiting for that first chance. A nice thematic melding of the two versions of sports films, the second chance for Akshay and the old British India, and the first chance for Amit and Kunal and the new Independent India.
And then there’s Soorma. Which, really, how could you resist turning this story into a movie? He’s an international level field hockey player who was shot, learned how to walk again, and rejoined the team better than ever! It was MADE to be a movie!!!!!
Plus, Diljit Dosanjh is perfect for the part, easy going but determined. And Taapsee Pannu and Vijay Raaz. And directed by Shaad Ali. And an interesting movie just from the background talent, a Punjabi star, a southern actress who crossed over to Hindi, an art film actor, and a mainstream director who had some success years ago but not recently, making a part Punjabi and part Hindi film.
There’s been so much focus on southern bi-linguals, Saaho and The Ghazi Attack and so on, but the idea of a Punjabi-Hindi industry connection makes a lot more sense. The Punjabi industry has quietly been turning into a major power in the past few years, and the language and cultural barriers between it and Hindi are much less. So it is mutually beneficial for the Punjabi industry to get some new viewers from Hindi, and vice versa, through this kind of collaboration.
In terms of plot, I could do without the “he gave up hockey, fell in love, was inspired, went back to it” ridiculousness. It just feels like they were stretching out the story so there would be something to do in the first half of the film pre-shooting. And way too reminiscent of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Sultan. But whatever, I am still THERE for the whole triumphal raising himself from the wheelchair part of the plot. I am a sucker for those. And also for Diljit in general.
And another Sanju teaser! And watching this teaser in comparison with the others made me realize that the story they are telling is yet another middle-aged underdog success. He was talented when he was young with the world at his feet (Rocky etc.), he went through a really dark period (drugs), he worked his way back, and just as he finally had success (Munna Bhai/90s hits), it all came crashing down again (jail times two). Only, it doesn’t fit the template perfectly, because he wasn’t actually that successful before the drugs, and the drugs didn’t really have that big of a professional effect (personal effect, enormous, but professionally it wasn’t a straight forward success-failure-success pattern). And he had two separate fall and rise moments, Naam to the first arrest, and then Munna Bhai to the jail term.
But Raju knows that this template sells, so by golly he is going to force Sanjay’s story into it. Even if it means skipping large sections and massaging the truth quite a bit in what is remaining. Sanjay was a success and on top of the world, fell, rose up again, fell again, and rose again. And it is all EPIC, and not just how life is for most people, you have your ups and your downs.
For this trailer in particular, it felt very surreal to me, seeing Ranbir digitally inserted into Munna Bhai footage. And also makes his performance seem, just, strange. Because we have such a direct comparison and (to me at least) it feels like he is going through the motions of Sanjay’s performance in the film but without the heart behind it. Like watching someone speak dialogue they learned phonetically without understanding the words. Which is always the problem with biopics, at what point can the actor stop an empty imitation of the real person, and start bringing in their own interpretation of the person as a character they are playing?
I suspect that Ranbir’s performance will be much stronger in the early sections, back when Sanjay was less defined in the minds of the public so Ranbir can invent things, versus the later sections when he is playing a character so familiar to all of us that he will be nervous about doing anything new. And this what Salman Khan was getting at in his much-quoted comment that “For Sanju, I was thinking why is somebody else playing this bit? The last 8-10 years. You cannot do justice to that. Sanju should have played the last bit”. There is just no way for an actor to play someone so familiar to the public without turning it into an empty mimicry, or else something new that the audience will reject as not being “real”. Far far better and more powerful to have Sanjay play himself.