Goal is a simple story that packs not just the sport, but also dabbles with issues like racism and fanaticism associated with sport. Issues that Westerners can relate to more than Indians, especially racial discrimination.
As a film, Goal has its share of highs and lows. If the first hour is strictly okay, the pendulum swings in its favour in the second hour, in the last 20 minutes, to be precise. The sport succeeds in arousing patriotic feelings, besides involving the viewer in the fight-to-finish finale.
Conversely, there are times when you feel that the film falls back on the predictable, tried-n-tested mundane stuff. And packs in something [Billo, the song] that's just not in sync with the mood of the film.
To sum up, Goal is a simple story, well told. Notwithstanding the hiccups, this film hits a goal, courtesy its brilliantly executed finale.
Southall United Football Club is facing its deepest crisis ever. Bankrupt, with no stars, no coach, no sponsors, no takers, no spectators and most importantly, no owner. After the City Council sends an eviction notice, it's the last chance to save the ground, the club and their honour. Shaan [Arshad Warsi] takes up the challenge to save the club from extinction. After a disesteemed ex-player, Tony Singh [Boman Irani], joins them as the coach, Shaan and he begin work to gather the worn out team.
Sunny's [John Abraham] dreams to play for England crashes after his club does not select him. The reason is apparently not his game, but the colour of his skin. Sunny and Shaan never see eye to eye. Adding to their personal chaos is Shaan's cousin sister Rumana [Bipasha Basu], who is in love with Sunny.
Tony manages to convince Sunny to play for Southall United. It takes a while before Shaan and the team warms up to Sunny. With Sunny joining Southall United, the team gradually starts climbing the points tally. The City Council is worried. Johny Bakshi [Dalip Tahil], a commentator and a frontman of the Council, plans to lure Sunny away from Southall United.
Director Vivek Agnihotri combines style and substance in his second outing Goal. Take the sequence at the very start, when an English woman and her frontman [Dalip Tahil] reveal their plans of coming up with a shopping complex on the ground. The director opens the cards at the very outset. But the narrative dips, rises, hits a low and ascends unfailingly till the first hour ends. The sequence prior to the intermission, at the Manchester United Stadium, leaves you awe-struck and makes you look forward to a powerful second hour.
Fortunately, the drama only gets better in the post-interval hour. The cold vibes that Arshad and John share as also John's volte-face, when he decides to abandon his club for the riches, give the film that extra dimension, camouflaging the defects that raised their head not too long back. The film dips at times in this hour too, but the journey to the finale is well structured. Yes, John's change of heart is slightly filmy and clichéd, but the climax is astounding. The penultimate 20 minutes in the stadium are awe-inspiring and that's what you carry back home.
Vivek Agnihotri knows what he's talking and though you know that he got swayed by technique in his very first film Chocolate in Goal, he never lets technique overpower content. The story is simple, but absorbing and presented stylishly. He's truly evolved into a fine storyteller.
There're just two songs in the narrative, the anthem Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal, which is excellent and Billo Rani, which is well-tuned, but the mujra doesn't go well with the mood of the film. Attar Singh Saini's cinematography is striking. The camera movements, which are so difficult in a film like this are exemplary.
Both John and Arshad are the Men of the Match. John is a revelation. Wrongly dubbed as a clotheshorse in his earlier films, he hits a goal in Goal. John lends the right texture to his character. He not only looks right for the part, but also plays the sport like a pro. Goal should occupy the top slot in his body of work!
Arshad Warsi is superb. An incredibly talented actor whose versatility speaks volumes. Cast in a sober, serious role this time, Arshad enacts the part with as much ease as he portrayed Circuit. Bipasha Basu may not have a lengthy role, but she adds zing when she appears. Her love story with John is really cute.
Boman Irani is top notch. Note his roar at the intermission point or the uneasiness he displays whenever his team locks horns with the rivals on field. It's a flawless performance. Raj Zutshi is first-rate. Dalip Tahil carries the venomous part well. The actor enacting the role of Arshad's wife does a commendable job.
On the whole, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal has an ordinary first hour, but the post-interval portions, especially the exhilarating climax, makes up for everything. At the box-office, the producers [UTV] have already recovered the cost of production from various sales and in-film advertising. The theatrical business will only add to the booty, considering the film has the merits to work with the moviegoers. Another factor that goes in its favour is the fact that the moviegoers haven't had a release post-Diwali. That should reap dhan for Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal.