It’s hard to pinpoint the specific moment when Reem Kagti’s Gold starts to really falter. Personally, I think it’s when they decided to show Hitler attending a hockey match. The fact that this scene comes in 6 minutes into the film is hardly a good sign.
Seriously Reema Kagti? This? Really?? Kagti is one of Hindi cinema’s more underrated filmmaking talents having given us Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Talaash not to mention being the other half of the stellar writing duo responsible for all of Zoya Akhtar’s films (Akhtar herself being the other half). That in mind, Gold was easily one of the most anticipated films of 2018 and now arguably the year’s most disappointing. That this is what a seasoned, exceedingly talented writer like Kagti came out with this drivel is nothing short of baffling.
Gold is a mess from the get-go and at times feels like an overwrought cartoon. You name it and this film has it – Nazis, Buddhist monks, those typical animated British officers who speak white-Hindi (no seriously are these dudes all on a Whatsapp group somewhere because I want in) and more jingoism than you can wave a flag at. Which they do. A lot.
Kagti barely gets the basics of a sports drama right let alone managing to tackle the film’s heavier themes like Indian independence, partition, British rule and corruption. But hey, that’s never a problem when you have the laziest voiceover narration always at the ready which manages to not so much spoon feed as it does shovel narrative down your throat.
Even the most formulaic and tropes-y of sports dramas offer some reliable safe bets. The scouting phase of finding the players from different corners of the country, the coming together as a team, the rousing training montages etc. Here these are all glazed over each ranging from plain lazy to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sequences. And yet, above all, the one job of a film such as this is to throw you into the action and tension of the sport itself, to feel the heart-pounding action, adrenaline and the stakes – Chak De being the obvious reference and gold standard here. But here you feel none of this barring a few moments in the final match.
Still, all is not a loss here. Once you make peace with the watered-down level of storytelling on offer there are some saving graces. The costumes, production design and all the work put into the recreate the period is admirable and give this just about the only credibility it has. Akshay Kumar equally works well works as the eager team manager and one man driving force who dreams of getting India its first Olympic gold medal post-British rule (the previous series of gold medals were all won in the name of ‘British India’). Even at the film’s weakest points, it’s hard not to buy into Kumar’s resilience, blind determination and resolve.
There are also some winning supporting performances. For one, the film gives us an onscreen Amit Sadh that’s actually tolerable for once. Newcomer Sunny Kaushal (brother of Vicky Kaushal) plays the other star player Himmat Singh – one of the film’s more refreshing presences. Having said that, make no mistake this isn’t a ‘team’ film, as the only members of the hockey team Kagti wants you to give a shit about are Sadh and Kaushal. All the other players are nothing short of background furniture and essentially just faceless entities. Kind of defeats the purpose when you’re making a film about a sports team don’t you think?
In the end, Gold is overlong, dull and a real slog to get through but one that leaves you with some important questions – if you fail to land the sports and the drama then what else really is there?