Imagine playing the right strikes without ever being able to hole the queen! That what Chandan Arora’s movie Striker is. It has many things going for it - a fresh coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of communal tension in the suburbs of the 1990s and 80s Mumbai, a talented starcast helmed by none other than Siddharth (he of Rang De Basanti fame), a few deftly directed sequences, excellent camerawork and soulful melodies.
Yet, none of these assorted parts mesh in to make one organic, seamless whole that could grip you by the gut for the two hours of the movie’s running time. The culprit here is screenplay which hops so much to and fro in time and from one subplot to another, etching out the twenty years of the protagonist’s life less ordinary, that the impact dilutes in the non-linearity which at times seems too adamantly adopted by the director to defy the norm. The result is a film that works in bits and parts but the whole turns out to be less than the sum of its parts.
‘Striker’ tells the story of a poor lad Surya (Siddharth) who grows up in the squalid and shanty underbelly of Malwani, on the suburbs of Mumbai. He has prodigious talent for carrom, a game he loves from the heart and to which he returns after the unfortunate and cruel knocks of life leave him penniless.
The story tracks Surya’s life through different time periods, unravelling his struggle to make a living, his crush on his Muslim neighbour Noorie (Nicolette Bird), his brush with the world of criminals and his bonhomie with his coke-snorting buddy Zaid (Ankur Vikal) who convinces Surya to bank on his strength at playing carrom by becoming the top striker in the gambling dens, thereby leading to Surya’s eventual showdown with the local ganglord Jaleel (Aditya Pancholi).
Director Chandan Arora sure has an eye for details which he shows in the authentic creation of the Mumbai’s underbelly, but as a co-writer of ‘Striker’ he leaves many portions raw and rusty. Some characters, like the cop (Anupam Kher), or the fisherwoman (Padmapriya) or even Surya’s crush (Nicolette) are only perfunctorily fleshed out. However, some of the sequences really work well. For instance, the opening reels when Siddharth runs into the rioting Hindu fanatics and angry Muslim mob on his way through the communally flared up Mumbai suburb in December 1992.
Performances by almost everyone are pretty commendable but it is Siddharth who stands above all and shoulders the film without ever letting his character become larger than life. Kudos to him and we wish to see more of him in Bollywood.
‘Striker’ isn’t a bad film to mark his return after ‘Rang De Basaanti’ four years ago, but with its jumbled up screenplay and a few unnecessary subplots, the movie turns out to be more of a missed opportunity.