Sport-related films, let alone one with a woman protagonist, are rarely made in India. Though after watching ” Saala Khadoos”, the atypical theme becomes just one of the many reasons to recommend the film. In this film we meet Adi Tomar (Madhavan) is a hot fuse and former boxing champ, who due to a long-standing enmity with former mentor and current boxing federation head honcho Dev Khatri (Zakir Hussain) is delegated to Chennai, where there seemingly is no future for boxing. Tomar moves to Chennai and discovers Madhi, a fisherwoman by profession, who he thinks is born to be a boxer. The film is Tomar and Madhi’s journey and how as a mentor he turns her into the champion she is born to be.
The film 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 and personals 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.
The first few minutes of the film is patchy, and Prasad doesn’t spend enough time establishing the conflict between Tomar and Khatri. But once the narrative moves to the shores of Chennai, the film instantly becomes engaging. A big reason for this being Madhavan and debutant Singh’s screen presence, chemistry and acting chops. Madhavan is angry as the titular character, but the real ferocity comes from Singh’s character. Both the characters carry the film on their shoulders, with Madhavan holding with Madhavan holding back just enough to make the mentor-student relationship seem genuine.
The entire cast, including the bit players like Madhi’s parents and debutant Mumtaz Sorcar, deliver arresting performances. The film is full of local flavour and full marks to Prasad for not shying away from themes like sexual harassment and internal politics in the sports world. Brownie points for the situational humour, which endear all the characters, especially Singh to the audience, 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.
Rating: 7/10 | 3.5 Stars