Watching a film is just different from writing its review. Often, trainee journalists want to learn formulae of reviewing films. I advise them to get out of the aura of film stars while reviewing a film. And, ‘Say Salaam India’ can be best judged on this basis. The film cannot be rejected because it has a tag line – ‘Let Us Bring the Cup Home’. The film cannot be sidelined because India is already out of the World Cup nor can it be ignored because it is based on Cricket.

Cricket is just a tool here, it tells more about life. It may have taken the same route of good verses evil or might verses weak. Anyway, it is different. Yes, and to know what’s different you ought not to be Javed Jaffery. ‘Say Salaam India’ raises hopes for underdogs. It may not succeed at the box office because of its wrong timing of release, but it’s better than ‘Hattrick’.

It may not be at par with ‘Lagaan’ and ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’, but it’s better than Aamir Khan’s ‘Awwal Number’ on any given day. Sports films are in thing in India. While Shimit Amin is busy making ‘Chak De India’ with Shah Rukh Khan and Vivek Agnihotri is making ‘Goal’ with John, Bipasha and Anil Kapoor, debutant director Subhash Kapoor chooses a gang of newcomers to make a very good film ‘Say Salaam India’.

‘Say Salaam India’ lacks face value to draw crowd and get a good initial at box office. But, once you settle down to watch acting of some raw boys, you witness an interesting film. ‘Say Salaam India’ has just two known names — Sanjay Suri and Milind Soman. Sanjay Suri plays Hari Sadu who is coach to a prestigious school’s Cricket team and suffers because of his die-hard attitude, and is removed by Harry Oberoi (Milind Soman), a new breed of sport factory. Harry knows all the tricks to win a game either by hook or by crook.

He is dream coach for those who love the glamour of the game and not the pain of it. Harry is on the move and is out to win the Inter-school championship. Only Hari Sadu can stop him and for this Hari needs a team. He looks for right kind of sportspersons and his search ends at the wrestling ring of the nearby village, He confronts the village coach and makes a team of misfits. These boys play the game by heart. For them the spirit of sports is above all. The underdogs are pitted against the lads in lion’s skin. The battle for the prestige of the game begins. And though everyone knows the result of the game, director Subhash Kapoor succeeds in making you part of the game.

‘Say Salaam India’ has some more known names to add value to the narration, like Sandhya Mridul, Manoj Pahwa, Vinay Pathak and Shraddha Nigam. But the lot that leaves better impression is of the newcomers. This includes Madhur Subhash (Viru), Anuj Pandit (Gurvinder), Prateek Jain (Mahi) and Madhur Mittal (Shakool). This younger lot is full of energy and gels well with the lines of the script honestly. These boys deliver a performance that will send shockwaves to the best in Team India.

The playing eleven of Indian team must watch this film and if the coach Greg Chappell accompanies them as well, they will come to know what went wrong in their voyage to West Indies. Full marks to Subhash Kapoor for making a film that works just because of its conviction. He also succeeds in developing some very common points of game looking so unconventional but at the same convincing. The film provides a sigh of relief. People may not wish to walk inside a theatre exhibiting a cricket film but once inside the hall, you will not feel cheated.

The only negative point is its timing of release. Had India moved the Super Eight at World Cup and won few matches, ‘Say Salaam India’ would have been a great success at the box office as well. Sanjay Suri shows his caliber once again and he shows what it takes to keep on ticking in a system that is so adept to serve stars. Sanjay gives a performance that is so subtle yet shining. He has all the capabilities to carry some intricate roles of the cinema, and if filmmakers are not using him, then it is the loss of cinema and not his.

Milind Soman shows his guts, too. His get up looks uncommon and helps him inasmuch as the viewers might forget his past roles. Acting with new get up in each film is an accepted trend in Hindi film and when Shah Rukh, Aamir and Hrithik are following it, how can others remain behind. ‘Say Salaam India’ needs applause because it’s not easy to make such films. The film in all probabilities will be a loser at box office but will be remembered by those few who come to see it for the sake of it.