Boys vs Girls? People have been arguing about this in the sports world for years. Indian media moguls Yash Raj Films put this question up for discussion in their September, 2009 release Dil Bole Hadippa (The Heart Says Hurrah!).
This was an entertaining film that begins with a rather unusual wager. The American baseball equivalent is that one batter (batsman) would hit six home runs (balls hit beyond the boundaries) on six pitches (thrown balls). But since this is India – It is not baseball – instead it is cricket. But the premise remains the same as each game is played with a batter (batsman) trying to hit a ball thrown by a pitcher (bowler). Needless to say that since this all happens in the opening minutes and is before the credits and so-forth even roll, it is okay to tell you that the batter succeeded.
What makes it intriguing is that the batsman was actually portrayed by Indian female film star Rani Mukherjee as Veera Kaur, a Punjabi beauty who is obsessed with cricket. In a series of sensational introductory shots, Rani approaches the ball field oozing confidence. She is a self proclaimed world-class batsman and she handles the six pitches with ease, even changing from batting right-handed to her weaker side left-handed for the last thrown ball.
The film’s back-story is that there has been an ongoing cricket competition between the border towns of Amritsar, India, and Lahore, Pakistan that they’ve played for years. The respective owners of the teams have also been friends for years. Recently, India has lost 9 successive matches to Pakistan and the India team’s owner Vicky ( short for Vikramjit Singh) and played by Anupam Kher) is desperate to gain a victory.
Of course he has a son, Rohan Singh , played by Shahid Kapur, who lives with his mother in England. And this son just happens to be a superb cricket player. So Dad lures his son to fly back to Amritsar under the guise of a false heart attack. Once past that bit of flim-flam, he then beseeches his son to take over the team, whip it into shape, and finally grab a victory over the Pakistani team.
Naturally, Rohan and Veera meet initially under unfavorable circumstances, and don’t really like each other (again think initially). But Rohan must go ahead and work with the cricket team. So he calls for public tryouts. Veera wants very much to play , but because she is a woman, she is not even permitted to enter the field to tryout. She’s turned away by a guard at the entrance to the field.
She’s crushed as she is really very good at the game. After returning home, she comes up with a scheme. She’ll put on a fake beard and mustache, and come back disguised as man named Veer Pratap Singh and get her tryout. Okay, this is a feel good Indian film so you pretty much know where this will go. Naturally he/she makes the team.
Despite some huge plot holes, and despite the script taking on some much broader based issues such as women in sports traditionally played men and the Indo-Pak politics with an unsecured border crossing, both of which are then played out on-screen and given such short shrift that you’d think these weighty issues could be solved as easily as squeezing out some toothpaste from its tubular container.
There were other issues as well such as when Rani came up to bat either as Veer or Veera, a specific religious hymn came over the soundtrack, and that might have been objectionable to some.
The fact is that while the film ostensibly was championing woman’s rights and an end to gender based discrimination in India, at the same time, there were two ‘supporting’ female roles, Soniya played by Sherilyn Chopra and Shanno played by Rakhi Sawant, whose purpose seemed to be only to show more skin than a righteous Punjabi women might do in order to amp the wiggle and jiggle factor.
My thinking is that director Anurag Singh, and producers Aditya Chopra and Yash Chopra put more on their plates than they could handle successfully. The script yielded no major surprises, not that any were expected in a sports based / romantic comedy / false identity film, and besides that was certainly lackluster (no memorable quotes jump out).
But I thought that Rani was superb as the exuberant Punjabi charmer Veera, as well as the crafty and skilled cricket batsman Veer Pratap Singh. Shahid Kapur certainly has the looks for a romantic comedy’s leading man, but I think his Rohan was surely playing second fiddle to Rani’s Veer/Veera.
Besides that, the film was visually splendid.
I have one question: If Veera Kaur was not permitted to play cricket against the boys before – how in the world did she develop such amazing skills.
As I said, there are plenty of holes in the story.