Shaad Ali’s “Soorma” (Warrior), based on hockey player Sandeep Singh’s life does one thing right. Its makers picked the right story, one replete with sports movie tropes of highs and lows, triumphs and let-downs.
Singh, the top goal scorer for the Indian hockey team, is shot in a freak accident. But he gets back on his feet and plays for India again, winning crucial matches for the country.
It’s a tale worth telling on celluloid and even though director Ali can’t stop himself from injecting some Bollywood jingoism and melodrama, he doesn’t go overboard.
We first see Sandeep Singh as a boy who runs away from practice because of a despotic coach who hits his wards with a hockey stick. Singh (played by Diljit Dosanjh) vows never to return to the turf, but changes his mind when he falls in love with Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu).
A hockey player herself, Harpreet recognises Singh’s talent and pushes him to play under Coach Kartar’s (Danish Hussain) tough regime. Just when it seems Singh’s proficiency as a drag-flicker will ensure a long stint on the national team, the accident happens.
“Soorma” has a very cut-and-dry style. Ali doesn’t waste much time on emotional scenes or linger on Singh’s rehabilitation, and that’s a good thing. At 131 minutes, the film is the right length.
Some moments ring false. Such as Sandeep finding out about his debilitating condition from news on television, or the stereotypical portrayal of Pakistani players as malicious and unsporting. The match scenes lack style, and the efficiency that works well in the rest of “Soorma” is an impediment here. Matches are reduced to scowling opponents and a flurry of goals, and Ali never bothers to get into the nitty-gritty of what makes Singh such a stand-out player.
What holds this film together is the performance by Diljit Dosanjh, who transforms himself from a petulant boy to a man who picks himself up after a life-shattering incident. The glint in his eye changes from impish to determined, and it is this that elevates “Soorma” from what would otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill sports film.
Keeping Dosanjh company is Vijay Raaz, who plays the wry coach of the national team and has the best lines in the film. Angad Bedi is also memorable as Bikram, Singh’s supportive elder brother. This is a film that has its heart in the right place, with a story that deserves to be told.