When the credits begin to roll, you get an odd feeling of déjà vu and then it hits you – this film bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2006 film The Namesake. But as the film unfolds, your mind wanders to crossover sports-based films like Bend It Like Beckham and Patiala House, which were based on the underdogs of Indian origin torn between their passion for the game and their cultural values.
Set in suburban Toronto, this film tracks a young man struggling between traditional Indo-Canadian family expectations and his dreams of becoming an ice hockey star, a game our Indian audience barely aware of.
Rajveer Singh (Vinay Virmani) is a young man who dreams of a professional ice hockey career. Unquestionably, he has the talent to be an accomplished player but faces many hurdles, the biggest of which is himself. Raised as a traditional Sikh, Rajveer was forbidden as a boy to cut his hair and had to wear a turban. This barred him from playing ice hockey, a game he loved.
In his early teens, forsaking his family’s religious traditions and beliefs, he cuts his hair so that he would be more accepted within his adopted country. His goal is to succeed in a traditionally white man’s sport but this conflicts with his father’s (Anupam Kher) wishes, that he devote himself to his religion and the family business.
Unable to find a foothold in the game, Rajveer creates an all-Indian ice hockey team (The Speedy Singhs). He finds a coach and bringing in his Uncle Sammy’s (Gurpreet Guggi) trucking company as the team’s sponsor. He does all this clandestinely to escape the wrath of his father. On the way to the championship game, he is faced with questions he had avoided all along: Family, friendships, loyalty and identity.
The film is anything but innovative when it comes to the script. Just like many cross-culture films, this one too has a sports-loving protagonist, a firangi love interest, misapprehensions of a father and a cross-cultural identity crisis. With nothing new to offer, the screenplay is monotonous and has a been-there-done-that feel to it. Since it is based on ice hockey, which is alien to India, the movie fails to capture the game’s essence and excitement. Dialogue could have been crisper and fails to evoke an emotional connection with the characters.
Also, the feeling of rapture is completely missing when the team wins matches.The song sequences are forced. Background score is good. Editing is sharp. The drama is dreary. The punches are good but too few.
Director Robert Lieberman, who has directed numerous Hollywood flicks, has done a decent job. His previous 1996 ice hockey-based film D3: The Mighty Ducks had much more to offer as a sport-based film. But this time, he fails to balance the hockey sequences against the audience enthusiasm. Performance-wise, Vinay Virmani does a decent job. Anupam Kher is his usual self. Camilla Belle plays her part well. Gurpreet Guggi is not amusing. Russell Peters does justice with his stand-up, one-liners. Rob Lowe plays his part with panache.
Verdict: The film is poor fare and is based on a tried and tested formula. Its box-office fate will be even poorer.