From Chak De! India to Chak De Qatar, a sporting cast

Monday, 24 March 2014 13:33

Indian movie stars don’t make it to our shores as often as their fans would like. So any opportunity to meet them up close and personal is definitely exciting. Now when the stars come to your home town and entertain you by playing hockey, it’s a different ball game all together!

The stars of the 2007 mega hit, Chak De! India, were in Doha recently. They arrived in the city to play a friendly hockey match with a few players of the Doha girls’ team at the Rayyan stadium. Well to be absolutely accurate, they weren’t completely sure they would be playing professional hockey after such a long gap.

To be fair, they aren’t professional hockey players. The four women from the film became overnight sensations when the first movie most of them were fortunate to act in achieved super success. What was perhaps, the icing on the cake, was the fact that they got to star in a film alongside India’s biggest Bollywood star, Shahrukh Khan.

For the uninitiated, Chak De! India is a story of a young all girl team of national hockey players who lack the self-confidence to win the World Cup. Their coach, Kabir Khan (played by Shahrukh Khan) is a no nonsense former player, who has a score of his own to settle. Khan attempts to mould the team of young ladies and simultaneously rid himself of the demons of his sporting past where his failures left him with not much but a tarnished reputation.

The feel good film certainly resonates with viewers. Six years later, it was nice to see that the girls from the film may have matured in age, but are still pretty down to earth. They laughed, joked and mingled with the public, with ease. After losing to the Doha team, they continued to smile and pose for photographs and were definitely thrilled to be in the limelight.

Andrea Lasrado, former Mumbai captain and Qatar resident, was thrilled to play alongside the Chak De! team. Shortly after the match she said, “I felt like it was time to play hockey again.”

Chitrashi Rawat, who essayed a tom boy-ish Komal Chautala, in the film could barely resist meeting children in the stadium. “This is our first visit to Qatar and we are super excited. The best part is that we have come here to promote hockey,” she says beaming.

“It is so amazing to meet our fans. To know that we have made them happy for a little while is the biggest thrill. It is really great that they watch our Hindi films and are well aware of our roles.” 
Among the film personalities was a sporting legend who humbly stood his ground. Mir Ranjan Negi has represented India as a national hockey player and former goal keeper. Speaking about his first visit and indeed first friendly match in Qatar he says, “The atmosphere was very electrifying. It is a very nice way of promoting sports. There’s entertainment, there’s masti(fun) and there’s glamour in the form of the actresses who are participating in the event. It all helps in the promotion of a sport and I must say the organisers have done a good job.”

As someone known to have started his own hockey training academy, he adds, “We’d love to come again in the form of an exchange programme where we can come and coach the young players here.”

We ask this sportsman a little more about his tryst with hockey. “Every sport gives you life skills which you learn on the sports field. Learning to play any game is a boost. There’s nothing like a team game which teaches you everything. All parents should encourage their children to take up sport,” is his advice.

Coming to Qatar helped revive old friendships, too. “I met my old friend Shahid Ali who was a former goalkeeper from Pakistan. The Pakistani crowd knew about the film Chak De! and they watched me perform on India’s equivalent to Dancing with the stars. They said, ‘Hey Negi you did a good job,’” he says shyly. 
When it comes to promoting the sport, Negi feels a lot is left to be desired back home. “Although the Hero Hockey League is supporting hockey in a big way, a lot more needs to be done at the grass roots level. I have my own foundation where I support hockey in India. It is primarily for the underprivileged sector. It is the duty of the parents to reach out to the Indian Hockey Federation and motivate them to invest in the sport.”

Actress and anchor Shubhi Mehta is delighted to visit Qatar. After visiting Kuwait with five other girls from Chak De! a few years ago, this is her second Middle Eastern experience. “We’ve received an outstanding welcome. To get to play hockey after so long is quite a thrill. It is quite a back breaking experience but it is worth it,” she laughs. Tanya Abrol who played the feisty Balbir Kaur was also at the event. She was spotted flying a kite with some of the youngsters on the ground.

Shilpa Shukla who played a negative character in the film was easily recognisable. She has won a Filmfare award for another role and is no novice to the industry. “I have done a lot of theatre and films but perhaps this film gets the most recognition,” she says. As many residents swayed to regional songs that evening, it was clear that a positive spirit was in the air.

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