With the exception of Shimit Amin‘s “Chak De! India“, which found the perfect balance of sports and drama, sports films in India such as “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and “Mary Kom” have often sacrificed sweat and grime for melodrama.
Sudha Kongara‘s “Saala Khadoos“, about the mercurial relationship between a boxer and her coach, also suffers from oversimplification. The film glosses over the struggle of becoming a champion in a tough sport like boxing and focuses on the stereotypes of the sports system in India, even adding an unnecessary romance to pad up the screenplay.
R. Madhavan plays Adi, a boxing coach who is perpetually on a short fuse and is transferred to Chennai after a tiff with an Evil Sports Official (a sexual predator who ruins his star pupil’s career, takes bribes from players, and does not have a good bone in his body)
There are several storylines to be tapped here – the complicated relationship between Madhi and her sister, also a boxer. Or the compulsion of playing a sport that is a ticket to a better life. The film would have worked even as a rags-to-riches story about an unlikely champion.
But “Saala Khadoos” is none of these things. Director Kongara dilutes her storyline by paying lip service to all these issues, but focuses on none. Instead, she adds yet another stereotype – the romance between teacher and student, except this is such a half-hearted attempt that even the actors don’t seem convinced.
Madhavan is shaggy-haired, unkempt and never really convincing as a despot with a heart of gold. Real-life boxer Ritika Singh is understandably good in the boxing scenes and awkward when it comes to emoting. Both are restricted by the uneven screenplay, which doesn’t allow either character to flourish.
Much like its title character, who often flares up for no reason, “Saala Khadoos” is a lot of hot air and not much else.