Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chak de kudiyaan

Much after the world and their uncle has seen Chak de India and moved on to the Next Big Thing, I finally saw the movie. And my God, what a film!

Bschools are planning case studies. And of course it is a lesson in team building and all that jazz. But to me, the defining moment of the Chak De was when Preeti Sabharwal asks boyfriend Abhimanyu Singh,"Aur mera career?"

And Singh, Vice Captain of the Indian cricket team replies,"Kahan cricket aur kahan tumhara yeh gilli danda.."

Which sums up the overall Indian attitude to women pursuing careers. Shaadi ke pehle, zaroor. Zaroor, beti, you must get an education. You can work, no problem.

Shaadi ke baad? Well, jo aapke sasural wale chahein. And as Vidya Sharma puts it so beautifully in the film,"Ab parivaar wale bahu chahte hain."

No doubt many of these women do work. But not to full capacity or potential. "Your husband's career comes first..." "Women, you know, must make sacrifices..." "Family comes first..." blah blah blah.

And yes, there are women who willingly choose a supportive and nurturing role but there are many many others who downsize their ambitions, clip their wings, bury their dreams.

Whether it's a Preeti - a modern young woman who has chosen her own partner (on the surface, a modern, metrosexual kind of man). Or a Vidya, who seems to have married into a more traditional family but was assured playing hockey 'would not be a problem'.

But it is a problem when she refuses to leave the camp to attend a wedding... after all 'log kya kahenge'?

To be recognised as an individual - not a daughter, wife or mother - is the secret desire of every young woman in India. And that's what Chak De captures so beautifully, without being a 'feminist' film.

Chak De captures the new face of feminism which is to wow the world with your achievements. Earn respect - don't beg or whine for it. And make a statement but have fun even as you're doing it.

This is such a huge change in attitude from the films with feminist themes in an earlier era. The kind which featured Deepti Naval, Shabana Azmi and other arthouse actresses. Oppressed, suppressed, depressed - until they one day walk out into the sunset and the audience walks out in relief.

Cut to Chak De. There's energy, there's hope. There's the idea that you can have your cake and eat it. If you're smart, and keep your head.

Take the match between the men's team and the women's team. Although technically, the Chak De team lost the battle, they actually won the war by earning the respect of the opponent. The chakle-belan waali team proved it meant business.

It's much the same in a regular career. Whether in medicine or management women still have to prove they are ready for the 'World Cup' - the higher level at which the game is played.

Secondly, women are often their own worst enemies. The back biting and ego issues in Chak De are oh-so-real. Ultimately the team won only when Komal and Preeti decided to co-operate. And Bindiya swallowed her pride to play as one with the team, giving them the benefit of her experience.

So in the real world, women need to make friends and allies to get ahead. You can't do it alone. By putting aside their egos both Komal and Preeti scored a goal each in the final. And both goals were crucial to the win.

Lastly, you don't have to become 'one of the boys'. I think the Australian team was deliberately given this athletic look (even in evening dress they all looked so manly!). In sharp contrast the Indian team was tough on field but also soft and feminine in saris.

The point being that yes, you can choose to become like a man to succeed in a man's world. Or you can balance the yin and the yang and yet get the job done just as well.

Like any sports film, Chak De is a cracking Underdog-wins-the-day, Unity-is-Strength kind of story. But writer Jaideep Sahni makes it something more than that as well. As with Bunty aur Babli, which captured the bubbles of aspiration across small town India, Chak De is a reflection of a prevailing undercurrent.

The hopes, dreams and ambitions of millions of our young women.

Of course there are other, important subtexts. Such as India taking on the firangs and beating them on their own turf. ("Pehli baar ek gore ko tiranga lehraata hua dekh raha hoon" is a bit of a cheesy dialogue but at a symbolic level it works).

The pain of a Muslim whose allegiance to India is in doubt because of a loss on the sports field. "Uske jaise to partition ke time hi Pakistan chale jaate to accha hota" is a telling piece of dialogue...

And of course the pure patriotic angle. Who or what is really 'Indian'? After 60 years of Independence many think all south Indians are the same. And anyone with Chinese features surely can't be a fellow citizen!

Jana Gana mana may not recognise a Jharkhand or a Mizoram but Chak De India does. Making it an updated anthem of an upbeat India.


  1. To raise a family, either husband or wife has to sacrifice. Though it is true, that in most cases it is the women who has to do it.
    But apart from the gender issue, I think there is one more factor involved. Most girls tend to marry guys who are at least as successful if not more succesful than men. As a result, a guy in marriage is more ambitious than the girl.
    If however, if women start marrying men, who earn less than 50% or less than the wife than probably more guys would be willing to sacrifice career for the family.

  2. For a long time i thought we were beyond the hep-girlfriend and homely-wife era..yet the more i see the world the more i believe things haven't changed. The problem arises when the girlfriend becomes the wife.
    Neither can she give up all her dreams or waste the years she spent in education..nor can she give up the constant image of a nurturing-always-there-sacrificing mother inculcated into her since childhood.

  3. Hi. I read your blog with interest. But find that it caters, just as your mag does, to a principally non medical crowd. Medicine as a field and the problems faced by medical students does not feature at all as a subject matter. I would love to know why medicine is meted such a stepmotherly treatment.

  4. I totally agree, girls often have to work twice as hard to prove their worth. I'm a doctor, technically an intern-all the time patients and their relatives refer to female interns, resident doctors as sisters. They really don't accept us as doctors and they believe a man always would know more than us no matter how good we may be at our work...

  5. very true
    i really liked the respect angle
    u mentioned
    even housewives who dont play sports
    dont get much respect in our country
    though i consider there jobs as tgh as running a business
    well written post
    kudos to you

  6. >>The kind which featured Deepti Naval, Shabana Azmi and other arthouse actresses. Oppressed, suppressed, depressed - until they one day walk out into the sunset and the audience walks out in relief.<<
    ROTFL stuff :)

  7. 'jan gana man ...' statement at the end of the post is the best one. correct that this movie includes everyone.

  8. I thought the gully-danda thing alluded to the state of hockey in India. It compared cricket versus hockey, and had nothing to do with a man's career versus a woman's career.

  9. Hmm... nice movie this! I will reserve my comments on the other 'issues' for later.. Eagerly waiting for "Young Entrepreneur Series"...

  10. The best part of the mve is the dialogue... Most of the messages are conveyed so well, and set the tempo for the film!

  11. When bfs turn husbands, they change drastically. When gfs become wives, they are forced to change.

  12. I too saw the movie on Sunday and was actually pretty disappointed to say the least.
    Now the film claims to empower women. In the movie women are supposedly empowered by :-
    (1) Almost beating men in a game of hockey.
    (2) Physically trashing men @ McDonalds.(This event supposedly brings in the much needed team spirit.)

    Now if this is what constitutes female empowerement then can only say that Indian women have a long way to go.
    In addition most men are pretty balanced in their outlook towards life,career and family and seem to have no problem juggling them irrespective of their maritial status. But all we hear from the female is constant crib about how society is somehow denying them their rightful place? Strange considering the fact most women marry UP and not DOWN. Men unfortunately don't have the luxury of moving up the social ladder thru marriage.
    I mean lets face it men and women are products of the same social system where both are given pretty much the same opportunities. Society can only guarantee equality of opportunities and not equality of results.
    I mean the implicit assumption in these feminist movies seems to be that all men have it easy in their lives/careers just becoz they are men. It's as if they did't have to work hard to get where they are and they all got there just becoz they happen to be male right ?

    True feminity/feminism to me would be someone who is comfortable with her sexuality and at the same time someone who can hold her own in all things she chooses to pursue.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. I think it sad, but god made the world unfair and thats how it is.

    Whats shown in the movie regarding the boyfriend not respecting the girl's ambition is very well presented and it is definitely wrong.

    But in a marriage once the couple decides to have a baby and grow as a family, who will have to sacrifice the ambitions.

    I am sure many couples decide to have a baby as a mutual understanding but then there is no choice but the lady to take the maternity leave. Men cant do that.

    Probably if god would have made sex in the form where either man or woman could have gone pregnant after it, then the playing fields would have been leveled.

    Every single point where women become weaker than men could have possible resolved with that.

  15. In addition most men are pretty balanced in their outlook towards life,career and family and seem to have no problem juggling them irrespective of their maritial status.

    - Really? In many households, the wife/daughter-in-law is still expected to help with dinner and the dishes, feed the kids and make sure the laundry is done while hubby comes home, plops in front of the television and "spending time with family" means having dinner with them, maybe helping with their studies or talking to them and going out on weekends.
    The power of societal expectations is such that we often do not know how much we ourselves are influenced by it.
    Another factor biology - women marry earlier as generally, thay marry men who are older - this is because of biology - a woman's chidbearing years are limited as compared to a man's. Added to that is the extra time lost in career advancement due to pregnancy and early infant care.
    If marriage were really that much of an equal institution, then why is it that it is usually the wife who moves to the husband's city, changes her last name and starts her career afresh?
    Also, because women marry earlier than men, their careers have not reached the point of their husband's.
    As for women marrying UP rather than DOWN, again this will only change slowly. For a woman to marry down, she herself will have to have a successful career, making good money. Probably, she may have to wait longer to get married. There are women who do marry down. In the arranged marriage scenario, however, generally, neither boys nor girls marry DOWN. A well-educated, successful professional will only seek alliances from people of comparable educational and social status. Even if a rich guy marries a really poor girl, there may be other factors involved like she may be gorgeous or a very sweet, caring girl which is what he may want since he does not want an additional source of income. In love marriages, however, the equation can change.

    Society can only guarantee equality of opportunities and not equality of results.

    -- Well, in India and many other parts of the world, equality is still a pipe dream for many girls and young women. Slightly off-topic, but given the rates of female infanticide and feticide, as well as the rampant dowry and other social issues, we still have a long way to go.

  16. “Much after the world and their uncle has seen Chak de India..” – I was hooked on the post right from the beginning – exactly my sentiments as I thought I was one of the last few people to watch the movie…:) Move over Lagaan and similar motivating films centred around teams – Chak De would be used by corporates who would now incorporate it into their office videos to inspire people to stretch beyond the usual – I know my office already has.
    The post was an interesting interpretation of the feelings of women across India today – especially the expectations people tend to have about us. I loved the movie – right from the central underdog-turns-champions and the women oriented theme to the realistic sub-themes that constantly run throughout the film – the individual glory elements within a team [Preeti & Komal], the questioning of a Muslim’s allegiance to his country, elements of Kabir gaining acceptance within the team, the patriotic fervour that the film evokes and finally the crossing of bridges based on the united spirit of womenhood [Komal’s “usko dikha dena” or something of that sort dialogue before she passes the ball to her closest rival, Preeti for that last goal]…wow, I walked out of the theatre, feeling so good and in a sense, raring to go….I got a similar sense when I read the post…:)…good stuff, Rashmi!

  17. @Lakshmi

    Most of the issues you have raised are true and everybody accepts it. But the tone in which you have written this piece appears as if you are accusing men for everything wrong with women and their lives .Should we deport the men to Mars and let women be sent to Venus....that would end the problems forever I guess :).Well jokes apart , this is what I have to say .

    To quote an example from the comment u have made .

    "Really? In many households, the wife/daughter-in-law is still expected to help with dinner and the dishes, feed the kids and make sure the laundry is done while hubby comes home, plops in front of the television and "spending time with family" means having dinner with them, maybe helping with their studies or talking to them and going out on weekends. "

    This is not true for our present times where husbands(or wives or anybody for that matter) has to slog hard to earn money. In fact , the woman survives on the money brought by the husband if she is not working. Everything comes for a price. If the woman is not working , she has to repay by serving her husband in lieu of the food and material comforts he provides her. Yes, if she is working, Then she is free to do whatever she wants because then its her money. But yes , if you are living off your husbands money , you have to pay for the services you get . This might seem akin to a master - slave relation but thats how businesses are run.Everything comes for a price, no free meals here for anybody regardless of whether he be a hubby or wife.This is my personal opinion and I am not biased against anybody.

  18. Hi Rashmi! Guess who...:-)
    Pasting my take on Chak De here from my Proact blog:

    My eleven year old daughter’s obvious delight was infectious. Ultimate compliment to Yashraj films is now paid: She wants to ditch basketball, that she is pretty good at, and go for hockey. And loves the idea of bashing up the 'bad guys'. At McDonald's no less, her mecca of gourmet food.

    Am impressed with Yashraj’s finger on the Indian pulse of today:

    > Pride at firangi lehraoing jhanda
    > Our cultural symbols e.g. we value and respect age, little matter if its incomprehensible to others : The coach of the international team asking, during a match, in frustration: ‘Which one of them is Didi?’
    > Bharat is a word consigned to the history bin. It is 'India' all the way.
    > Girls who at last look endearingly normal and not the Yash-Chopra-filmy looking
    > There is a time and place for romance – and it is not during the ‘winning that is everything’. Same goes for chiffon that gives way to khadi-types sarees.
    > Women stating their wishes and needs – that men are beginning to pay heed to, but it’s a long haul yet… (Indian Men versus Women - Nah, women can't win!)
    > Recognition that Madrasis is a phrase we use to club Telugu+Tamil + Malayalam+ Kannada in one; that we think of those from the North-East as ‘foreigners’; that we have new states like Jharkhand. But then, ultimately, in yashrajese, the North still rules... Punju sounding ‘Chak de’ is the phrase to go with. While some of the girls have been allowed to keep close to their real life names, Sagarika Ghatge becomes Northy Priti Sabarwal.
    Cheers!! Piyul

  19. the world we live in is not an equal place, it is insanity to fight for equality.... in men there are powerful men, weak men, not so weak men, financially physically , etc etc... same is the case with women... some cannot realise wt they want to, some can.. even men have to forego of things once in a while ... problem is the way one views things... world is not made to be equal, it is the inequalities that drive it forward make people ambitiouse, give people goals, everyone had to give and take....

  20. @pintujee

    This is not true for our present times where husbands(or wives or anybody for that matter) has to slog hard to earn money. In fact , the woman survives on the money brought by the husband if she is not working.

    - I haven't blamed men for all the wrongs committed. I forgot to make myself clear; it was not meant to be only the housewife but even full-time working women who shoulder a disproportionate proportion of the housework. Yes, many husbands do help with the housework, but the overall attitude still seems to be that a husband who helps with the chores is considered to be extra nice and the wife "lucky" whereas a wife who works full time and still does a major proportion of the work is considered to be doing her job. There are many surveys to prove this and I have seen it happen, too. Now, I am not saying ALL men are like that; but a significantly large number are so.
    So it is not that men are merrily juggling work and family; their wives and mothers do a significant protion of the "family" part.
    Secondly, housework is a thankless, drudgery-filled job. You don't get promotions, intellectual stimulation or bonuses for it. Imagine a well-educated woman/man who does sacrifice their career for their spouse. After some time, they miss other things about having a career other than the money part.
    It is not that people who are sitting at home are all lazy. Some of them have valid reasons for doing so.
    Lastly, about the tone, Madan seemed to imply that women are complaining needlessly; that there are equal opportunities for everyone. Equality is not about just getting the same education or clothes or food; equality is about attitudes, too. Sadly, we have a long way to go before the latter changes. And, no, it is not just men, but women also, who are responsible for making it happen.

  21. Hi Rashmi...been following your blog for quite sometime and appreciate your work!

    You have reflected all my thoughts in this post! I agree with you in every letter and intent. Hope there are more such movies which encourage the youth, women to come out and show their worth to the world.

  22. WEll we leave in a Interdependent sciety, every body wants physical relationship with women, whats wrong if husband expects it. Women need support in socity and hense fiminist movements are a necessar crutch till they learn walking.

    All fingers are not alike.

  23. Hear Hear!! With you all the way!

    My favorite part of the film? "Ab mari bhains ki poonchh ukhadne se kya hoga?" - by KOmal. It told me one other thing - that you don't have to change anything about yourself to excel. OK, maybe in the real world, you do. In my make believe, you don't.

  24. @lakshmi who wants to change attitudes ...

    I think this pic says it all w.r.t who needs to change their attitudes...

  25. CHAK DE INDIA has inspired all of us. It mirrors life. You slice it and see it from various angles and you will see situations and the human reactions /weaknesses/strengths and vulnerabilities present in our life. In fact it is as real as it could be.

    GET INSPIRED by one view of Chak De at and I am sure you would have many others.

    Share this link with your friends and see the multiple take on Chak De India.

    You can also write your views and read other members learnings on the forum .There is a good one on Narayan Murthy views on Chak De India at


  26. Great!! You expressed feelings of every young women in India. Keep it up... I love your blog...

  27. wanderful writing
    i must say
    u v put everythg so beautifully girl...hatsoff seriously....i saw the movie may b a mnth back bt after reading ur words i felt as if i was watchin the movie again...nd i thk u ve done complete justice to the same....

  28. nice blog. i hope you don't mind i linked it to mine.

    chak de was a great movie with a great message. well written post too, from the feminist point of view without being feminazi.

  29. Kudos to Lakshmi..You have said it perfectly well...Judging by the comments put by some of the guys, India has a long way to go. It requires a complete shift in Indian society (which is a bane for all women). Women should be raised to be independent individuals. They need to know they are equal in all respects to a man whether they earn or not. So if they end up being housewives, it doesnt mean the house is run by the man who brings in the cash.They are equal partners in a marriage with equal say and equal respect.

  30. hi rashmi .. I came across your name often various Business magazine et al . never had the opportunity to personally complement you ....

    .May be this is notthe right place 2 do so .. but yeah ... would say on the write up to Chakde..! review is great , the inner , undrlying insight is highly encouraging ..

    the film .has been a forerunner like DCH , RDB ..which captures the essence here in youth ..

    the bold action the movie dares to focus is an All-Women-Indian-hockey team..against cricket obssesed Indians ..offcourse ..I think the 20-20 world cup win is just a coincidence Chakde..

    Coming to issues@ homefront women face, well some are I believe is our own creation ..herd mentality across a section of people in society , compliance to some 'unwritten codes of social living' is what we have accepted on our own , not thrust upon us ..its our making the choice is our discretion ..

    Many modern day MBA/professionally qualified gals love to accomodate themselves once they find their man in life..once inlove/marriage all those free spirit goes tata bbye bbye , just remains her own shadow ....recalled only when pushed to edge !!! ..

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  32. Anonymous8:14 PM


    套国际会议同传服务,深圳翻译公司,专业深圳英语翻译 深圳日语翻译深圳法语翻译


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