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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Gold Review: Akshay Kumar Fuses Patriotism with Full-On Entertainment

Gold focuses on India’s emergence from the shadow of the British Empire as it meets the British hockey team on the field, this time as a nation of its own.

The film traces the “golden era” of Indian hockey through the journey of Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar), a young assistant manager who dreams of playing for an independent nation.

12th August 2018 commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s historic victory where it achieved its first gold medal as an independent nation.

The significance of the gold medal is particularly important as it represents the dream that united a nation when India won its first gold medal as a free nation on that historic date.

Gold highlights a chapter in history that has not been portrayed much in Hindi cinema. Therefore, there is a lot of curiosity and hopes attached to this Reema Kagti film.

The movie traces coach Tapan Das’ trials and tribulations as he endeavours for the British Indian Hockey to be free from the ‘British’ tagline and win Gold for a purely Indian hockey team, during the post-independence era.

I am very grateful to Excel Movies and the team of Gold for bringing us this story as it is one which has not been prominently covered in Bollywood and it really is surprising as to why nobody had depicted this before.

Furthermore, it is imperative for young British Indians like myself to understand that India’s fight for Independence was not limited to a nation, but also a dream, to have a standalone national hockey team.

To see this struggle on the big screen makes me feel rather emotional and proud that despite the hardship, we managed to conquer defeating all odds. The film is patriotic in a true sense.

The patriotism is prevalent through several sequences and dialogues. For instance, when ‘British India’ wins the Gold medal in Berlin during 1936, Tapan secretly reveals the tri-colour flag to the team and they salute it. They do not fear being tried for treason. Again, this reminds us of the struggles India has gone through.

There is also an interesting dialogue which made many people in the cinema hall clap. This is when Tapan Das tries to stop the team from fighting by saying:

“History is a witness, whenever we fight amongst us, outsiders will take advantage of us” and this is very true. As such, this line can be quite relevant to today’s day and age as we often see conflicts within our motherland, be it through caste differences or even politics. This line will always be remembered.

The film is helmed by Reema Kagti, who has previously made a comedy like Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and the enigmatic psychological thriller Talaash. Making a historical sports drama is a different ball-game altogether but Kagti does a fine job.

I feel that the risk of making historical films is that there is a temptation for a filmmaker to steer away from the subject at hand. However, Reema stays true to the concept.

For instance, there is a sequence when team India come face-to-face with Pakistan. Fortunately, there is no jingoism from either side, because that is not what the film is about and we have seen way too much of that already in cinema.

Moreover, I love the angle that has been taken for Gold. Rather than it just being a historical sports film, there is a strong human interest as the 1948 hockey match is coated as ‘avenging 200 years of enslavement’. I feel this also evokes emotions of nationalism as it reinforces the tortured past of India.

In addition to the concept and direction, Gold also does well on the technical aspect. The cinematography (by Álvaro Gutiérrez) is par excellence, especially during the hockey game sequences. I like how too much technology is not used, in order to suit the 1940s era. Speaking of which, the entire set up looks very authentic and convincing. Plus, the way the hockey matches have been shot will draw the viewer in as if it is a live match.

As a result, all these elements are topped-up by excellent performances.

Firstly, Akshay Kumar is his usual best as Tapan Das. What I love about the actor is that no matter how serious a film or role is, he will always find an opportunity to entertain the audience through his comic timing. He is the Khiladi of Bollywood and for good reason.

Having said that, he does not dominate the screen, being a superstar himself. In fact, every actor in this movie is given an opportunity to shine and make an impact.

Mouni Roy, whom we have prominently seen in the series Naagin, makes her Bollywood debut and she does a good job bearing in mind that the movie has such a huge cast and is headlined by Akshay.

For me, Mouni’s expressions and body language do the talking. In fact, her performance reminds one of a young Sharmila Tagore. I think she has huge potential to make it big in Bollywood.

Nikita Dutta is another TV Actress who appears in the film and she too leaves her mark in a brief but impressionable role. Nikita is another actress who has great potential to carry a film entirely on her shoulders.

The performances of the hockey team members: Kunal Kapoor, Sunny Kaushal, Vineet Kumar Singh and Amit Sadh are brilliant. Each actor brings out their characters to the screen and there definitely is a synergy between them – even during moments of clashes.

A special mention here goes to Sunny Kaushal. He plays the role of Himmat Singh, a hot-tempered but talented hockey player. Bearing in mind that Gold is his second film, Sunny is very impressive and has a solid screen-presence. It will be interesting to see what more he has to offer in future films.

It is a given that Gold has several positives. But are there any negative tropes? Not many, though I feel the soundtrack is quite average. Besides ‘Nainon Ne Baandhi’ and ‘Chad Gayi Hai’, the other songs are quite forgettable. I expected a better soundtrack for Gold, but at least the background score does full justice to enhance the film’s atmosphere.

I have seen many patriotic Bollywood films in UK cinemas, but never have I been in a situation where the audience has stood up in honour of the Indian national anthem. This itself is a testament to what a brilliant film Gold is.

But the beauty of this Reema Kagti film is that the movie is not just preachy about patriotism. It takes the audience on a journey in a very captivating way – which makes the film very entertaining, even if one does not particularly enjoy sports films.

I strongly recommend everyone to watch Gold as it is an eye-opening movie on how a nation has fought not just for a free country, but also for the liberty of their own sports team.

So just go for Gold!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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