LAGAAN and IQBAL are landmark films on cricket. The response to LAGAAN specifically was so electrifying [and emotional] that theatres turned into stadiums during the penultimate cricket match in the film.
VICTORY traverses a different route altogether: This one revolves around a cricketer, talks of the highs and lows in his life, how greed, arrogance and lust almost ruin his career, but how he regains his lost form and becomes a hero all over again.
The difference also lies in the fact that the sportsmen in the film aren't actors, pretending to be cricketers, but real-life cricketers. And that makes the goings-on identifiable.
VICTORY may not be a true-life account of any one person, but you can't help but draw parallels with people who led a wild life off the field. Also, any sports-based film works if it arouses the right emotions and VICTORY does so towards the final moments. But there's a hitch. The film could've done with a shorter running time [instead of approx. 2.35 hours] and a tight script. More on that later!
Final words? A few interesting moments don't really help. This one tries to hit a boundary, but ends up taking a single.
VICTORY tells the story of Vijay Shekhawat [Hurman S. Baweja], who hails from Jaisalmer. Soon, he becomes India's latest world-class batting sensation and is catapulted to superstardom.
However, the glam and glitter makes the young, vulnerable Vijay stray from his true vocation of cricket. Unfortunately, this leads to a loss of focus and to a miserable drop in his performance. But by the time Vijay realizes his mistake, he finds himself thrown out of the Indian cricket team. Suddenly, the hero becomes a villain in everyone's eyes. His father [Anupam Kher] suffers a paralytic stroke.
This tragedy awakens Vijay's conscience. He wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his father and every Indian. Against great odds, he once again makes it back to the Indian team and gets to play in the finals of the Champion's Trophy against Australia, where he plays a stellar role in enabling India to win the Trophy.
Ajitpal Mangat chooses a difficult subject for his directorial debut. Placing immense trust on a newcomer [Hurman] and casting real-life characters could be tough and demanding, besides being expensive [cricketers' fees and paying for the various stadiums]. But Ajitpal achieves the required results.
The initial moments are very mediocre, but the pace picks up when Hurman goes astray, when he can't digest success, when he falls into wrong hands [Gulshan Grover]. The graph is erratic; sometime interesting, at times boring. However, what rescues the film from failing are the penultimate moments, especially the one when Hurman faces the final ball.
On the flip side, the writing isn't convincing at several points. The first 30 minutes of the enterprise makes you break into a yawn, frankly. Also, the film is stretched in the second hour for no reason and could've done with some tight editing. The songs in this hour are a big deterrent.
Ajitpal Mangat makes a confident debut as a director, but VICTORY would've made a stronger impact if the writing [screenplay: Ajitpal Mangat, Kannan Iyer] would've been watertight. Anu Malik's music is listless. Barring 'Balla Utha' and 'Money Money', the remaining songs are of the fast-forward type. Cinematography is excellent.
Hurman S. Baweja displays the required confidence. He gets the body language right, looks dapper when required and conveys the required emotions well. Only thing, he needs to control his expressions at times. Amrita Rao does very well, although this isn't her film actually. Anupam Kher gets it right yet again, especially towards the second hour when he suffers a paralytic stroke. Gulshan Grover is very effective.
On the whole, VICTORY is a strictly average fare. Barring a few moments in the second hour, there's not much that you carry home.