Several interesting films on sports/sportsmen have been made the world over. In India, a film on sports -- cricket, football and hockey -- has caught the attention of viewers quite a few times, in the past. Most of them starred relative newcomers or unknown faces, but registered an impact nonetheless because the viewer was able to connect with not just the sport, but also the drama integrated in the plot. STANDBY does not have any mainstream actor or a recognizable star on the posters/billboards, but it has a riveting story to tell and that's what makes it a watchable experience.
STANDBY is helmed by eminent film-maker Sanjay Surkar, who has four National Awards to his credit. And he chooses sports as the topic. The dirty politics in the field of sports, to be specific. He also makes an attempt to highlight the fact that like cricket, football is an equally loved sport, but the high adrenalin game is ignored in our country, with cricket and cricketers being given more prominence. Also, the politicians' constant meddling in sports can hinder a sportsman's career. Surkar tells this in very clear words in STANDBY.
STANDBY is not just about sports, but also talks of friendship gone sour. How ambitions can create a rift and drive a wedge between thick pals. Though the film is a notch above the ordinary, with Surkar keeping the viewers glued to the proceedings in most parts, what acts as a roadblock, at places, are the songs that have been juxtaposed in the plotline. Frankly, STANDBY should have been a songless film; that would've only made it stand apart from films of its ilk.
STANDBY tells the story of Rahul [Adinath Kothare] and Shekhar [Siddharth Kher], two football players from Maharashtra, sharing a common passion -- football. It is their desire to represent India one day on the international stage. They get this opportunity to fulfill their dream when Maharashtra wins the prestigious Santosh Trophy after a decade.
But things take an ugly turn as Shekhar, the son of an influential industrialist J.P. Verma [Dalip Tahil] and the captain of Maharashtra team, is not selected in the main squad. The Selection Committee Chairman, who has close ties with J.P. Verma, and the Federation President select Shekhar as a standby striker with the hope of getting him in the team by removing one of the players. What follows is dirty politics.
Recall soccer flicks like SAAHEB, GOAL and the recent CYCLE KICK. STANDBY is about football as well and I must add, it's an earnest effort that stays with you after the movie has concluded. In fact, there are moments in the film [when the coach confronts the minister on two occasions] and also the finale [when the two friends battle it out on the field] that are brilliantly executed.
But, like I pointed out earlier, the songs could've been avoided. One of the songs -- on a chessboard set -- though imaginatively filmed, wasn't needed in the first place. Ditto for the item song on Yana Gupta. Also, the love story is half-baked and serves no purpose. Yet, despite the hiccups, one cannot deny the fact that Surkar has made an absorbing film. The on-field games as well as the games people play off the field are well handled.
STANDBY works also because of the fresh casting. Siddharth, seen earlier in TEEN PAATI, gets it right. He's got the attitude to carry off his part well. But it is Adinath Kothare who catches you with complete surprise in a challenging role that offers him ample scope to exhibit his range as an actor. Here's a talent to watch out for! Sachin Khedekar is a fine actor and proves his credentials yet again. Manish Chaudhary, as the coach, is top notch. In fact, he steals the show every time he appears on screen. His piercing eyes do a lot of talking in those silent moments. Dalip Tahil, Avtar Gill, Surendra Pal and Nagesh Bhosle are perfect for their parts.
On the whole, STANDBY is a fairly good effort that drives home a point. Regardless of how it fares at the box-office, you can't deny the fact that it's a well-made, sincere effort.