Soorma review: Diljit Dosanjh as Sandeep Singh is spot on

Soorma movie cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Taapsee Pannu, Angad Bedi, Vijay Raaz, Danish Hussain, Satish Kaushik, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Soorma movie director: Shaad Ali
Soorma movie ratings: Two and a half stars

It’s raining biopics in Bollywood. This week we have Soorma, based on the inspiring story of a grievously injured hockey player who made a comeback against all odds, and won.

It’s just the kind of real-life story which can lend itself to a goose-bump inducing film, because that’s what great sportspersons are trained to do: straining every sinew, leaving aside pain and exhaustion, in order to get past the goal-post. Or, in the instance of Sandeep Singh aka Flicker Singh, who gained fame as the fastest ‘drag flick’ player ever, to score the goals.

Diljit Dosanjh as Sandeep Singh is spot on. And that is the film’s biggest triumph. Whenever Dosanjh is on screen, we are with him, as he goes through Singh’s arc—the struggle to please a vicious bully of a local coach (Hussain) who gets his jollies from beating up young players, the falling in love with the bright-eyed Harpreet ( Pannu), who is an equal dab hand with the stick and who wants to play for India as much as he does, the shocking incident on a train which leads him to paralysis, and the tough, painful journey back to the field.

The challenge with making a film on the life of a sportsman whose career has been in the news, and whose high and low points have been documented, is to keep it interesting without exaggeration, and to retain the drama without being melodramatic.

The film keeps that crucial spirit to the fore when it starts off. Till Sandeep is shown as a regular guy supporting his older brother who is the hockey player (Bedi) with promise and with an eye on the India jersey, gently flirting with a pretty girl, and generally being a good son, Soorma stays believable, and watchable.

The moment it shifts track, and starts building up its lead into a hero, background music blaring, and the sporting blood-and-sweat shoved into the background, it becomes your standard ‘rona-dhona’ fare. A bhangra song-and-dance is bunged in. And the hockey gets drowned in tears.

A better film would have given us crispness and a solid game plan. There’s enough excitement in the game to make it completely cinematic (Shimit Amin’s Chak De which also gets its underdogs to win, was a rousing film). We don’t really get the inside story of what constitutes a winning side, how the team becomes one, the constant back-breaking hard work and intense strategizing that goes into the process. In choosing to show the personal side, the professional aspects get short shrift, and that’s where the film doesn’t score as well.

Which is a pity because Dosanjh looks completely at home both off and on the field (reports say that Sandeep Singh helped in choreographing the play). The solid supporting cast helps us get past the movie’s many glycerined moments: Angad Bedi, as the older brother who lives his dreams of being in the national team through his sibling, is credible. Danish Hussain, reminiscent of so many real-life coaches who threaten to ruin players if their whims and fancies are not carried out, is excellent. As is Vijay Raaz as the flavourful senior coach who shows us the more humane side of the sport. The latter also has some nice lines, and he throws them away with aplomb. Pannu matches moves adequately with Dosanjh, but you wish she had more to do as a player in her own right.