“An eye for an eye makes the world go blind”. This quote from the late Mahatma Gandhi defines this Bollywood action-drama that emphasizes on the political tension between two rival countries and their attempt to improve relations. The climax truly pays homage to one of the most underrated American martial arts films made.
For decades, India and Pakistan have engaged in three wars as rivals. Now has come the time to make an improvement on relations between the countries. In an effort for this to occur, Indian minister cabinet Kunjal Bhaskar Reddy and Pakistani minister cabinet Mohammed Akhtar recommend a goodwill tournament between the two countries in 17 months’ time in the Islamic region of Lahore, Pakistan.
The majority of the film focuses on the events that lead up to the tournament. Two brothers have excelled in their sports of choice. Younger brother Veerender “Veeru” Singh is a renowned cricket player while elder brother Dhareender “Dheeru” Singh is an up-and-coming kickboxer. When Dheeru defeats five-time national champion Gajanan Dinan, Indian coach S.K. Rao is determined to make the newcomer India’s representative at the 14th Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, much to the chagrin of Minister Reddy, who is also the president of the Indian Kick Boxing Federation.
Pakistan’s kick boxing team is captained by the ferocious Noor Mohammed. Noor is the type of fighter who only cares about winning and losing only and this all comes from the arrogance of Pakistani coach Sikander Hayaat. Despite health issues and good advice from intern psychiatrist Ida, Noor is determined to represent Pakistan in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, the competition is fierce. Meanwhile, in India, Veeru is training for one of the biggest competitions in the cricket circuit. The finals of the Asian Championships pit Noor and Dheeru. Dheeru seems to get the upper hand and after the final round, Dheeru is convinced he has won. However, Noor comes up with a cheap shot, kicking Dheeru in the neck, instantly killing him. When Veeru learns of his brother’s demise, he reels and grieves only to come up with a solution. He goes to S.K. Rao and asks him to train him in kick boxing and represent India in the upcoming goodwill tournament.
Co-writer/director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan had developed an interesting tale depicting the political strife between Indian and Pakistan. At the same time, he devised a means to perhaps show a possible way how the countries can improve their relations and without a doubt used the American martial arts film Best of the Best (1989) as a major influence and perhaps, inspiration in making this film.
What makes this film astounding in terms of the political tension of the film is that in one particular scene, Indians are seen protesting against Pakistan after Noor kills Dheeru in the Asian Championships. This is a reflection of how people assume that one man’s actions especially that of a non-government official, represent the views of a country. However, this film is truly proof that there is no anti-Pakistani propaganda involved. The reason comes in the fact that certain characters from both sides attempt to quell the tensions. This comes especially from the characters of Pakistani intern Ida and Indian cabinet minister Reddy. Reddy is still determined to hold the tournament despite all the objections and what is even more interesting is that Dheeru is given a hero’s return during the elaborate funeral sequence. There is even internal strife between Coach Rao and Minister Reddy from all fronts. It is clear that Reddy only cares about the politics, while Rao cares that someone’s life and family has been dealt a major blow.
The film soon delves into a generic revenge theme as Veeru, reeling from the death of his brother, asks to join India’s kick boxing team for the goodwill tournament. However, he only has one thing on his mind: revenge. Male model turned actor Aanadhaa makes his film debut as the young Veeru, who plays the role as the opposite of Phillip Rhee’s Tommy Lee in Best of the Best. While Tommy has fear in his mind when he is chosen to face his brother’s killer, Veeru seethes with revenge and it is this mindset that ultimately ends his relationship with Ida.
Shades of Veeru’s fighting skills is depicted in an earlier scene when he takes on volunteers of a pilgrimage after they block the main road for him and his sister-in-law to head home and it is played on the news. In an ironic twist, Coach Rao sees Veeru and asks why he isn’t a kick boxer. However, when Veeru does ask to join the team, Rao is unsure about letting him join.
The kick boxing sequences themselves are enjoyable and yes, there is a bit of wirework involved. This comes from a collaboration between stunt co-ordinator Mohammed Aslam, sports consultant Robert Miller, and Hong Kong legend Tony Leung Siu-Hung, who was flown in to serve as the film’s action choreographer. Despite the wirework, the fights bring a bit of authenticism in kick boxing. The last two bouts of the film truly emulate that of Best of the Best and they involve Kelly Dorji, who plays former champion Gajanan, and of course, Aanadhaa, who faces the towering Mukesh Rishi (Asambhav) as the Pakistani kick boxer Noor Mohammed.
Lahore is definitely unlike a typical Bollywood action film. With a combination of depicting political strife and using kick boxing to improve relations between two rival countries, it is clear that this film is India’s answer to Best of the Best. This is truly a great modern martial arts drama that should be seen by fans of the genre, especially if you liked Best of the Best.
WFG RATING: B+
Warner Brothers Pictures India presents a Sai Om Films Pvt. Ltd. production. Director: Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan. Producer: Vivek Khatkar. Writers: Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan and Piyush Mishra; inspired by the film “Best of the Best” written by Paul Levine. Cinematography: Neelaabh Kaul. Editing: Sandeep Singh Baljeli.
Cast: Farooque Shaikh, Nafisa Ali, Aanaahad, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Shradha Das, K. Jeeva, Sushant Singh, Kelly Dorji, Jaswant, Jagdish Kansara, Mukesh Rishi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ram Awana, Syoh Lal Chaudhary, Avnesh Devichand, Pramod Muthu.