Starring John Abraham, Bipasha Basu, and Boman Irani. In Hindi with English subtitles. Unrated.
Sports films are new to Bollywood. With the recent success of Chak De! India, about an Indian women's field-hockey team, starring superstar Shahrukh Khan (Om Shanti Om) as the coach, a number of sports-theme films have cropped up, with mostly uneven results. The latest, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal, is as awful as its title and a disaster as a sports dramedy.
Set in the South Asian part of London known as Southall, the film follows a ragtag group of immigrant soccer players from India, Pakistan. and Bangladesh who make up a consistently losing club called Southall United. The poor excuse for a plot has the only South Asian football club in England fighting to preserve not just the dignity of their communities but the rundown stadium they call home. The loudmouth immigrants are the good guys fighting against an army of discriminatory white football players, racist team owners, and greedy municipal bureaucrats who want to tear down Southall's stadium to build a shopping mall unless the team can come up with three million pounds by the end of its season. Well, no biggie: three million pounds awaits the league champion. You know the rest.
The viewer, unfortunately, is forced to spend more than three excruciating hours (with a 20-minute intermission) watching this sorry excuse of a team (some of whom don't even look like footballers) go from sad sacks to instant David Beckhams. At least that's what the numerous football-playing, cheering-fans montages would have us believe.
Director Vivek Agnihotri's sophomore effort is a heavy-handed, cliché-ridden mess, which is worsened by the corny and uneven paint-by-numbers script. Bollywood B-list stars John Abraham and Bipasha Basu are miscast as ace player Sunny Bhasin and team doctor Rumana, respectively. Their adequate performances, however, are suffocated by a script that doesn't know what do with their Hindu-Muslim romance.
It's too bad because there are themes here racism, immigrants in a foreign land that are ripe for the picking.