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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Sachin-The Ultimate Winner, Review: No option of a third umpire

Sachin-The Ultimate Winner, Review: No option of a third umpire

Sometimes a film is made amateurishly, for home consumption. ‘Home’ here could mean captive audiences, like a chain of schools, some of whose students feature in the film. Sachin-The Ultimate Winner is one such film. It is probably close to what is called a zero-budget movie, has tacky values, a predictable plot, passable performances, and music that leaves much to be desired. It seems stuck in a time warp, and heavily influenced by the tear-jerker movies of the late 50s and early 60s.

A gifted cricketer, Sachin studies in Saint Soldiers High School and is able to demolish opponents in cricket matches by winning performances, both with the bat and the ball. His prowess is a thorn in the side of the DAV School and its captain, Naved, himself no mean cricketer. A group of four from DAV school, led by Naved, learn that students of Saint Soldiers School, including Sachin, are going on a village service camp. They decide to attack him there. When he goes to a hilly peak alone, they follow him and jostle him. In the scuffle, Sachin falls off the cliff and sustains severe head injuries.

Rushed to a hospital, his head injury is treated, and he recovers consciousness after a couple of days. But to the horror of everybody who loves him, he seems to have lost the ability to move his legs. An MRI scan is performed, and it is discovered that there is a clot in his brain, and he will have to be operated upon by a neurosurgeon. The cost of the operation is estimated at Rs. 20 lakh. This is shocking news for his mother, for his benefactor, Nihal Singh, a dairy farmer who loves him like a son, and for his cricket coach. The principal of his school feels that even if he pleads with them, the school’s Managing Board will not sanction such a huge expenditure. Nihal Singh collects all the money he can, and offers it for the treatment, but much more is needed.

Multi-tasker Dweep Raj Kochhar has made this film with the collaboration production designer of Ved Thapar. Kochhar has written (story), produced and directed the film. Screenplay and dialogues are by Dweep Raj Kochhar, Dhruv Raj and Yuvraj Kochhar. Dweep is also the Executive producer, written the lyrics lent his voice to songs too. So, it is pretty much a one-man show. Or, if we take into account the contributions of Ved Thapar, a two-man show. This is the first film of Dweep that I saw, though I have seen Ved Thapar at work, from close quarters, in TV series of the late 1980s. Of the departments listed above, lyrics are not bad, though the rhyme sounds contrived at times, and the dialogue is functional, though at times it is messy, due to wrong timing or repetition.

A title like Sachin-The Ultimate Winner gives away the climax before you have started watching the film, and reduces a viewer’s curiosity. In any case, the school team, not Sachin, is the winner. In a film about a young cricketing prodigy, what name do you give your hero? What could be better than Sachin? So, Sachin it is. But why was he named Sachin? Surely the parents did not know that he was going to become a cricketer? Was his father a cricketer and a fan of Sachin Tendulkar, and that is why he named his son Sachin? We are not told. They do not give him a surname. Most other characters too do not have surnames. In fact, the coach does not even have a first name. Idolising Sachin Tendulkar, what do you expect the boy to do? Stick posters of Sachin Tendulkar on the wall and pray to him as the God of cricket! Bingo! And he is not merely a cricketing whiz-kid, he also saves the life of a flower vendor’s son when he is about to become the victim of a road accident. There’s more. He comes to the rescue of Nihal Singh’s slow learner son when he is ragged and bullied, and takes a drastic step. Nothing is mentioned about Sachin’s academic standing (99 out of 100 sportsmen are academic failures), yet he is referred to as the best student of the school. The coach states that Sachin will need physio-therapy to recover. Yet, there is not a single shot of Sachin undergoing physio-therapy. So why refer to it?

Entries and exits of characters are ill-timed. Some shots seem to have been okayed in spite of their being NG (not good) takes. There’s a flashback within a flashback, not recommended by film-making norms, as it tends to confuse the audience.

Mukul Cheeru gets to play Sachin, and has pretty little to do, besides playing cricket. That apart, it is a dream role, considering the film starts rooting for Sachin with a refrain ‘Sachin, Sachin, Sachin’ right from the moment the main credits start rolling. Dr. Ved Thapar as Sachin’s coach has an easy-flowing gait and great pronunciation. He is the only actor with a list of film and TV appearances. But this film fails to cash in on his strengths as an actor. Camera angles, lenses and the microphone do not capture his words and actions effectively. A homœpathic doctor of long-standing, and a social worker, he divides his time and earnings among his interests. I am convinced that this film must rank among his social service causes more than commercial considerations. Shivani Sharma (Sweeny) as Sachin’s mother goes through all the suffering that a mother might experience if her son were to be in the state that Sachin finds himself in. She is shown to have a daughter, younger than Sachin, while her husband is no more. The movie does not miss out on the obligatory sentimentalism of the family standing in front the father’s photograph and addressing the departed, as if he was alive.

Dhruv Raj, who collaborated on the screenplay and dialogue, is cast as DAV School’s Coach, given to sleaze, and hitting below the belt, or rather, hitting on the head. And do not miss the twirl of the moustache. He goes about his part as stereo-typical as they come. Dweep Raj Kochhar as Nihaal Singh plays the Punjabi card to his advantage, but goes over-the-top in the bargain. Nevertheless, his is a likable character. Naved Sharma acts as the DAV team’s captain, named Naved. He looks too old for the part, but betrays a mean streak quite effectively. Muskan Panwar plays Sachin’s sister.

Music by: Yuvraj Kochhar and Harish Mangoli includes a number sung by veteran Sadhana Sargam. The opening track hammers ‘Sachin’ repeatedly. Then there is the multi faith, oblihgatory prayer for the recovery of Sachin.

One must not speak ill of the dead, so nothing shall be said about the cinematography by late Gagarin Mishra. Editing is credited to a studio, not an individual: Eye Focus Studios. It is undistinguished.

Other credits include:                                                                               

Costumes: Bablu

Background Score – Suprateek Hui

Action: Yuvraj Kochhar

Choreographer: Raka

A lot of credits, logos, banners and banner signature songs precede the main opening titles, which come on only three-and-a-half minutes into the film, and the first shot is seen six minutes on. In a 100-minute film, this is a luxury. Moreover, about half the film is devoted to two cricket matches between opposing school cricket teams. That does not leave too much space for a real narrative.

Sachin-The Ultimate Winner is obviously not aiming at the box office, and is an exercise undertaken by a group of people who were very happy making the film, and will be happy to show it to select audiences, especially schools. That it is getting a theatrical release is a bonus, which is a fait accompli in itself, from which they should not expect worthwhile returns.

Whether Sachin’s hit clears the boundary or a fielder catches it inches inside the line, the verdict will soon be out today. And this being a school match, there will be no option of a third umpire.

Rating: * ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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