Starring: Diljit Dosanjh, Taapsee Pannu, Angad Bedi, Vijay Raaz, Satish Kaushik
Director: Shaad Ali
Biopics can be inspiring. But biopics also tend to gloss over the negative shades of the subject's personae. As far as they are not as big a whitewash as Sanju was for Sanjay Dutt, that should be fine.
The good news is that Soorma [meaning warrior], the story of India’s field hockey international Sandeep Singh, is not a whitewash. It is more of a love story weaving its way in and out with the hockey stick and ball at one point within its limits just like the rectangular field in the sport, and with a humane touch.
There is good dosage of brotherly love, some hopeless acting from seemingly stern coaches and administration officials but compensated with good music and songs.
Singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh, who plays Sandeep, and Shaad Ali, the director, are the real Soormas of the film. Dosanjh’s voice to ‘Ishq di baaziyan’ is velvety and opposite to his stick-solid performance.
On the eve of the film's release, Sandeep Singh assured readers of The National, "It is a nice, clean film just as the pure relationship I had with her [his lady love]."
However, that relationship which forms the backbone of the film’s plot has been needlessly diluted from real life to show that Sandeep Singh picked up a hockey stick after Preeto (played by Taapsee Pannu) came into her life. It is a twist that does injustice to the spirit that Sandeep Singh showed in real life.
Soorma is the story of Sandeep Singh, which jumps straight to his youth days and ends at a high note when he returned to the field despite being almost paralysed by a freak gunshot incident when travelling in a train for the 2006 Hockey World Cup in Germany. Doctors said he might not play, but he went on to earn the tag of Flicker Singh, the defender who holds the record speed of 145km/hour for his drag-flick shot in the sport.
To add unnecessary drama, the film shows Preeto doing a missing act to inspire the Flicker Singh to get back on his feet. In real, Preeto aka Harjinder Kaur was always by his side. They married after many years of courtship with the former women’s hockey international player, who has traded her stick to be a homemaker by choice.
Back to Soorma and Dosanjh. A sportman’s biopic is even more difficult given the skills involved to represent the protagonist in his full colour. Sandeep Singh, also less famously tagged as Sultan of Shahabad, belongs to a Punjabi Sikh family from the small town in Haryana Shahbad Markanda.
Dosanjh, as the turban-clad hockey player, delivers a standout performance after training under Sandeep for just 3-4 months. It is a pity he accepts roles which allow him to wear the headgear, limiting his true potential.
After starting with the popular romantic film like Saathiya, Shaad Ali has struggled for more than a decade to impress. His last moderately successful directorial venture was Bunty aur Babli, way back in 2005. But he is back with a bang with this movie, which runs along the theme of Salman Khan's Sultan as a wrestler.
But the sporting scenes of the film are limited and one is left yearning for more. Scenes of India-Pakistan hockey clashes, for instance, his rivalry with his penalty corner specialist counterpart – a reference to Sohail Abbas – and other sporting action are a treat to watch.
It is said that Sandeep Singh asked for a hockey stick to be in bed with him while fighting back from his wheelchair days. When he came back, he ruled the Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Malaysia and the Olympic qualifiers in India. There is no reference to many such incidents which would have accentuated the warrior bit of his personality, but these are nuances a sports lover would desire.