ring. It’s a story about sibling bonding, cross-border rivalry, politics in sport, love, loss and a quest for vengeance. You’ve seen a lot of it before. But the setting is new for a Bollywood film, a kickboxing arena.
Cricket, football, hockey, even boxing we’ve seen on screen before. But how many of us in India even know of this sport that employs boxing blows and flying kicks to killing effect? And against a backdrop of a ‘friendship’ series with Pakistan, uses it to punch home the message that sometimes defeat scores over victory and sportsmanship over national one-upmanship.
Boy-next-door debutant, Aanaahad, must be hoping his Viru (Virendra Singh) can wrest some people away from Viru’s (Virender Sehwag) flurry of sixes on the IPL field, even though following his brother’s unexpected death, he moves from the cricket field to the ring.
It would be sad if that didn’t happen because Lahore is one of the few authentic sports films to emerge from Bollywood studios.
First time director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan may be a little tentative when he’s dealing with scenes of domestic harmony-- though his cross-country love story is sensitively underplayed — but once he steps into the ring, he’s in complete control of his craft.
The fights choreographed by Hong Kong-based action director Tony Leung Siu Hung, are believable and bring an adrenalin rush. M.M. Kreem and New York-based musician Wayne Sharpe’s background score, along with Rolf Dekens and Neelabh Kaul visuals, add to the ‘real’ feel.
Sushant Singh carries off the fights pre-interval with convincing ease but it is Aanaahad’s duel in the climax as he strains to control his fists of fury, that gives the film its guts and glory moment. And you finally understand how this gangly asporing actor landed the knockout break.
Farooque Shaikh returns from self-imposed hibernation as national coach, Rao, whose media manipulations, Hyderabadi Hindi and avuncular charm brings back memories of the Katha rogue and Chasme Buddoor’s unlikely Casanova.
Nafisa Ali as the mother is white-haired and winsome even when weepy. Mukesh Rishi is an impressive Man Mountain. Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Ashish Vidyarthi, Kelly Dorji, Ashish Vidyarthi and Saurabh Shukla lend the weight of their histrionics. Shraddha Nigam and Shraddha Das carry off their supporting roles with grace.
The title may seem deliberately provocative and the promos could suggest another terror drama, yet Lahore is pretty restrained in its references to a neighbour with whom we’ve had a history of three wars.
Even though a Pakistani kickboxer has a hand to play, literally, in the story’s shocking turnaround, there’s no attempt to get into jingoistic spiel or whip up pop patriotism. So Pakistan’s decision to ban the film comes as a surprise.
Lahore is not without its flaws but it still leaves you wanting to punch the air!