By Hindustan Times
Director: Robert Lieberman
Actors: Vinay Virmani, Rob Lowe
Akshay Kumar is going to be in town. Yipee. Indian families are excited. You’re not surprised. We’re in Toronto, possibly its suburb Brampton, to be more precise. It’s a uniquely frenzied outpost of Bollywood’s soft imperialism; this place. Those who may have watched this year’s IIFA awards, held in Toronto, would instantly understand.
For those viewers in Kanaada, the lead character does a Bollywood number in sherwani, on ice skates, before the Taj Mahal, by a frozen desert, in this film. Good for him. Good for them. But this is really not a Bollywood movie, in that sense. The makers have roped in a reasonably well-known western face, Rob Lowe (The West Wing, Family Guy, Austen Powers series, and, ah, Wayne’s World, my all-time favourite teenage movie ever!). Rob plays a sports coach.
They’ve also signed up Candian stand-up star Russel Peters. He does the same old, jaded gags that he’s doling out, I hear, for 22 years now! Between the two of them, the producers could have run out of money to spare. The movie’s execution remains slightly amateurish, fairly tacky, mostly "NRI movie" type.
Akshay Kumar, by the way, is also the credited presenter of this picture. Besides, he’s played the hero’s part in a similar BBCD (British-born Confused Desi) subject set in London recently (Nikhil Advani’s Patiala House).
Except, that was centred on cricket. This one refers to ice hockey. The debutant hero here (Vinay Virmani; also the screenwriter, and I presume the financier's son) is the captain of a rag-tag South Asian hockey team comprising die-hard local Sikhs. His old man (Anupam Kher; stock father, who always gives Diaspora daddies a bad name) won’t have his Indian kid participate in any such team sport. Even if the boy is excellent at it. We’re not exactly sure why. Let’s say, or as he says, “Work, future, in spare time, the gurudwara, no ice hockey for the boy.” Wokay. Besides, he reasons, who in India’s heard of ice hockey. They only know cricket. Sardar Sr also hates peanut butter, apple pie, and the necktie.
Son continues to play. Daddy doesn’t know. Few funny lines apart, you sense some script-guru’s spreadsheet (Syd Field’s?) being directly turned into a generic screenplay. There's at least promise of a speedy recovery. Stuff's still short enough. Under-dog team clears round after another of the top domestic hockey tournament. This is much to the surprise of everyone in the movie -- not those watching it, of course. The audience’s so far ahead of the film, they could be outside its theatre.
You do head home with a thought: What's with desi kids defying their parents, and racial or gender stereotype, to finally make it in sport? A whole lot. Of money and fame, that is. Remember Bend It Like Beckham? Back in 2002? It reportedly grossed $22 million in the US alone, and made Parminder Nagra, let alone Keira Knightley, an overnight star. Boy, no harm trying, I guess.