The genre of sports movies is usually underdog stories. It’s a formula that has been done to the death. Even then, an underdog story brings a smile to your face, primarily because everyone loves a fightback from the weakling. Saala Khadoos is a typical underdog story, churned in the similar fashion a sports movie should be told. What works for it, is the earnest way of telling it. It’s a simple plot where every twist is predictable from a mile, with an ending which’s overdramatic. But you still end up liking it, because of the honesty with which the tale has been weaved.

Adi (R. Madhavan) is an ex-boxer turned coach, disgraced with allegations of sexual harassment. He’s temperamental and has issues with the current chief of the boxing federation, for which he’s transferred to Chennai. There he meets Madhi, a tomboyish girl with an attitude. He discovers her potential as a champion boxer and offers to coach her. Rest of the story forms as Madhi gets ready to tackle every barrier on her way to the top.


The movie initially takes its own time to set up the story. But once it’s in the groove, it moves beautifully. The director Ms Sudha Kongra is no newbie to filmmaking having spent her early days assisting directors of the calibre of Mani Ratnam. She ensures that the movie hits the right notes at the right time, hence doesn’t deviate from its actual story. You see a myriad of emotions flowing through Madhi’s life as her devotion to her sister, her passion towards boxing and her hatred for her coach turning into respect and then blossoming into love. As a sports movie, there will be comparisons with other boxing movies. But what Ms Sudha does is, she weaves her own tale, so small references to Million Dollar Baby or Raging Bull works out well in her favour.


Debutant Ritika Singh as Madhi shows tremendous potential as an actor. Her rawness works out very nicely for the movie as her character goes through a sea change, from being a rowdy street fighter to an ace boxer well versed in her craft. Such versatility from a non-actor is a rarity these days. R. Madhavan, as expected is astounding as the hotheaded boxing coach. As per grapevines, he took a sabbatical from acting to prepare for this role. His acting skills were always exemplary but with Saala Khadoos, he has taken method acting to a different level altogether. From the gait of a boxer to the lisp while talking (as a result of shattered jawlines, a phenomenon commonly occurring during boxing), he plays an authentic role. Usually known for his romantic movies, he brings back the meanness of Ayatha Ezhuthu with much élan. To not use an actor of this calibre is a crime. Hindi Film Industry, are you listening ??


The assorted star cast fits perfectly into the frame. Mumtaz Sircar as Madhi’s sister Lux has a meaty role and she does well. Veteran actor Nasser as junior coach Punch Pandian brings out the much-needed laughter. A special mention goes out to the wonderful actor Mr Zakir Hussein as the boxing federation chief Dev Khatri. His and Madhavan s’ confrontation scenes are one of the highlights of the movie. Mr Zakir exhibits a subtle viciousness that automatically makes you hate the character.  The cinematography is very good as the boxing bouts are well shot. Music is surreal with Dil Main Hua Ghotala, sung by Monali Thakur, standing out as one of the melodious songs of the year.


Saala Khadoos is one of those films, which has been made with a lot of warmth. It might not ring the cash registers like the regular run-of-the-mill movies, but it has its heart at the right place. That’s the most important aspect of movie making. As co-producer, Madhavan should take a lot of credit to have told such an amazing story.

And finally, what an ode to Genghis Khan !!


The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5


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