‘Soorma’ Could’ve Been Shaad Ali’s Shot at Redemption – But Wasn’t
I vividly remember the summer afternoon when I had gone to watch a movie at the theatre with my dad for the very first time. It was one of my first few big-screen movie-viewing experiences. I had seen the trailers on television – the only companion and entertainment for a bullied, introverted child. Bunty aur Babli (B&B) was what my movie ticket read.
Unlike me, my father – who has never been a film buff – has not watched any movie on the big screen thereafter. However, my 10-year-old self was completely taken with what the film had to offer – dreamers, con artists with conscience and the affable duo of Bunty and Babli.
As the credits rolled, I read a familiar name – Shaad Ali, the director of the film. It rang a bell. I had watched Saathiya on television, a few days back. I was probably too young to grasp it in its intended totality. Nevertheless, it was a decent movie with amazing music.
I caught up with more of Shaad Ali’s work through a few other movies, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Kill Dil, OK Jaanu, and most recently Soorma. If you look at that list, it's obvious that even after starting his career on a high, Shaad Ali never really experienced box-office success after Bunty aur Babli.
Bunty Aur Babli Flows Easy, Soorma Hiccups
That's what brings me to writing this article. As I watched Soorma, almost 13 years after B&B, the sports biopic seemed too fluffy. Perhaps Ali’s usual style of chalking out a three-act structure for his films – boy-meets-girl, conflict arises and a happy ending – was at odds with what a film like Soorma demands.
Diljit Dosanjh never looks like the 17 or 18-year-old he plays in the movie, but after watching our 40-year-old ‘superstars’ play college-going kids, we can let that one slide. Yet the movie never really picks up. The sporting shots are generic and come across as a sad attempt at reviving a Chak De India feel.
While Bunty Aur Babli is a completely different genre, the characters are more vibrant and well-sketched.
With Bunty and Babli, the conflicts within, the desire to achieve something, the thrill they were seeking was something that my young self found endearing. How two losers took matters into their own hands after facing rejection and disappointment was intriguing to say the least.
Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerji were unabashedly themselves, every step of the way.
He is the only one who comes close to (and eventually succeeds) in nabbing the adventurous duo, who at one point in the movie succeed in selling the Taj Mahal! (This happens only in UP, right?!)
And the moment Aishwarya Rai comes on screen with ‘Kajra re’, you can’t help but think “Ho gaya bas paisa-vasool!”
‘Soorma’s Characters Lack Depth’
Unlike Bunty Aur Babli, Soorma’s characters are half-baked. The first half of the film goes into establishing the love story between Sandeep Singh and Harpreet Kaur, peppered with the usual Bollywood song and dance. To add to it, that everyone in Shanabagh who wants to play hockey has to get beaten up by the coach, also occupies the thick of the plot. That leaves the second half looking cluttered and rushed. Apart from Diljit Dosanjh’s Sandeep Singh, no other character evolves and has depth.
Angad Bedi as Sandeep Singh’s brother tries to compensate for the weak script with his performance but gets stuck as the typical Bollywood sidekick to boost Dosanjh’s Sandeep.
Soorma had a lot – and I mean, a lot – of potential. But that remains untapped throughout its two-hour-something run. You feel that it’s going to pick up any moment but it mostly leaves you high and dry. The melodrama overshadows any grittiness and you are left wondering why the scene couldn’t have unfolded without the additional drama.
Soorma is a lost opportunity.
That’s something B&B did exactly right – it allowed scenes to unfold in their own simplicity and come together like a jigsaw puzzle. Soorma, in an attempt to take bits of everything, loses out on the essence of a powerful story in the bargain. It looks like Ali has bitten off more than he can chew and suffers from the big budget movie hangover.
It’s High Time Ali Makes an Engaging Film
By some crazy luck, I have watched all Shaad Ali movies (and been disappointed). Jhoom Barabar Jhoom had a big list of stars but no real story and absolutely no logic. It was bound to be a failure from the word go. It essentially cost four actors their careers (before Abhishek Bachchan found redemption in the Dhoom franchise, but still he always loses to the bad guy, and Bobby Deol recently found some solace under ‘Bhai ka Haath’).
With his remake of mentor Mani Ratnam's OK Kanmani as OK Jaanu, there were some box office hopes attached as the original was an out-and-out hit down South and raked in the moolah like no other; but that also bit the dust as the Aditya Roy Kapoor-Shradhha Kapoor-starrer failed to make any impact on the box office and failed to add anything to Shaad Ali’s credentials as a filmmaker.
According to The Indian Express, Soorma has made only Rs 8.25 crore in two days at the box office.
Here’s to the 23-year-old me, hoping that she will get to see another engaging, fun and riotous Shaad Ali flick that the 10-year-old me got to experience.
Who knows, I might be able to drag my father to the theatre again!