You take it for granted, that obviously, if precious time, money and effort has been spent in producing yet another sports story, there's bound to be something separate these folks want to say. And then you watch Goal and you wonder what the goal of the film was (excuse the unimaginative pun).
Honestly, this Goal is all jhol -- there’s this group of Indian immigrants in England who form the Southall United Football Team and are aiming at winning the League, to save their club from dissolving.
Typical underdog, emotional tug-at-heartstrings element. Except here, the team is such a sorry bunch of overweight, over-the-hill losers, you don't see why you should root for them. It’s not a Chak De, where you're hoping the talented, starring team beats others silly and emerges the solo winner.
Still, it's a movie, and in the name of creative license, things come together pretty quickly. The team's captain Shaan (Arshad Warsi) is determined to turn the team’s fortunes around and finds an old coach Tony Singh (Boman Irani). The coach has given up on football long back owing to a sob story, and now wears an unshaven look, a grim expression and tweeds, and says dialogues like - Tum Mein Jeetne Ki Himmat Hai?.
Perhaps they wanted to avoid a cliché. Singh swears to turn around the team, even as you marvel at his bravery, bordering on foolishness. At the same time, the band of boys decides they need money, a bus, a doctor and sponsorship, and all that happens rather effortlessly. A rousing song later, they suddenly become superlative players.
Heck, they also get the cool dude footballer Sunny Bhasin (John Abraham) who earlier wanted to play with the goras, but was left out because of racism. Dejected, Bhasin decides to take up the coach’s persistent offer to "play with his people".
Then there are dialogues like - Hindustan choda hai, hindustaniyat nahin. The desperate use of racism to instill faux patriotism in the viewers is not very dignified. It is, in fact, desperate, and doesn't work.
Once they start winning matches (inexplicably), they break into a celebration where the item song Billo Rani comes in. There's also a kid, the captain's brother, who hangs around mysteriously everywhere, looking as confused as the script.
There's a twist at the end too, connecting two people and their stories, and the coincidence of that turn is so inconsequential to the story, it elicits no response.
There are attempts as being funny by including a Sikh in the team, one who looks miles away from being an athlete. But he’s good-hearted you see – he's kept his garage girvi for raising money for the team – a positively mental thing to do.
As always, the Sardarji is the joker of the team, what's more, his coming into the frame is marked by bhangra music in the background. And this film talks of racism?
Goal is extremely chauvinistic in its interpretation of patriotism – the Brits are often referred derogatorily as 'You gori chamdi'. What is the need to do that? Nobody clapped.
Then the film encapsulates other givens of a game movie – the coach is a taskmaster who keeps telling everyone – 'You're late' and does inspiring locker-room dialogue-baazi before every game. The end, as always, is the hit-or-miss situation marked by the last goal. You already know what's going to happen first frame onwards. It's just a dreary ride till getting there.
Of the cast, Boman Irani saves the film on many occasions. His rendering of the coach is note-worthy and interesting, despite the empty characterisation. John suits the role -- He looks the part and acts well.
Bipasha is a doctor, one who doesn't do anything when Sunny is lying on the ground injured, instead is hysterically screaming his name typically like a Bollywood heroine. The rest of the team is best forgotten, this may be the time you may thank yourself for having a short memory.
The cinematography tries to impress but is unnecessarily mobile, such that at times you want to intervene and physically steady the camera yourself. The screenplay is predictable. The dialogues range from the bizarre to somewhat ok. Here's an example – In a supposedly romantic scene, John's Sunny claims that Bipasha's nuts, and she retorts: 'Main bahut sexy bhi hoon'. You cannot help agree with the former observation. Editing is unforgivably lax.
There’s one area where this film misses the goal completely – Sound – which is of foremost importance in a sports movie. Everyone's using sync sound now, and you wonder why, given that UTV is producing the film and assuming there were no major budget constraints, the film was dubbed. It's painfully unnatural to see scenes of game-playing in an open stadium with no ambient sounds; just that of the dialogues and the ball being kicked. The era where this kind of sound was acceptable has passed, and filmmakers must take note.
Of the positive points is the stylish scene between Boman and John where the coach challenges him to a match. Also John and Arshad's like-hate mischief is interesting – especially in a couple of fleeting comic scenes. The ending minutes are riveting, but again, it is adultered adrenalin, diluted by blatant formula-following. Bipasha's role has nothing much, but her lovely laugh does light up the screen ever so often; and the kiss between the famous off-screen lovers, despite their comfortable chemistry, is nothing to salivate over. The Dhan Dhana Dhan song is effective and eminently hummable.
If you don't like sports, you might not like the movie; thing is, if you like football, you might dislike it even further. Every sports film has its own victory song—this one's wordings go - `Don’t mess with me dude’. Pretty much the viewers' plea to the filmmaker.
Verdict: Two stars out of five