On the face of it, there could be no life less ordinary in its extraordinariness than that of international hockey player Sandeep Singh. To begin with there are the usual struggles of life — the familiar growing-up pains, the commonplace trysts of love, a loving family that firmly believes in
(food) and
wahe guru
(God). In fact, the singular most important stroke of Sandeep — the drag flick, that got him the sobriquet of Flicker Singh — also appears to have come to him just like that, while shooing away the birds in the fields. There are hardly any dark clouds on the horizon other than a nasty coach and the lady love’s caring brother (so wannabe Fawad Khan) who understandably has just the right concerns about the career and future of her prospective groom. If at all, Singh’s life is filled with good people who tower over a few bad men. Till a life-altering accident changes the course of things but even here the guy responsible for the misfortune is essentially a nice fellow who commits the mistake unwittingly.

So there is an obvious lack of drama, no major highs and deep lows that makes one wonder about the viability of
as a sports film. After all, sports films meant to be electric and rousing. However, it’s this gentle ordinariness and Shaad Ali’s restrained approach that make
appealing. Even the perennial strain of good-natured humour doesn’t scream out for bellylaughs but simple smiles. There are the predictable “nation and flag” metaphors. But the arc of
is that of a love story—hockey happens to Sandeep for the love of Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu), herself a hockey player. Eventually, though it’s about a move away from the distraction and ardour of the love for a woman to the focus and diligence of the love for the nation. And the spark of it has to again come from the woman.

The mainstay of
is, of course, Dosanjh in the titular role. He traverses the span of his character with sheer ease — a charmer as the shy, innocent, bumbling lover and mesmeric as the sportsman with the killer attitude. Here’s an actor who is effortlessly nuanced in his simplicity and it’s he who makes the flirtation with Taapsee Pannu winsome, warm and sweet. She responds well however, when on her own seems to get bogged down by an inexplicable righteousness.

Angad Bedi gets a role to chew on as Dosanjh’s brother (also his default coach and the wind beneath his wings). If the obnoxious coach from Shahabad who can’t be saved even by his samosa love (a brutal Danish Hussain) is illogically cruel, the goodness of family gets too schmaltzy for comfort. While Satish Kaushik as the family patriarch is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, the mother seems ready to burst into a flood in every frame.

Sadly, the one guy who plays wonderfully to the gallery gets packed back home abruptly. Vijay Raaz should have stayed around longer specially after bringing the house down with his elucidation about being a Bihari–“
Thook kar maathe pe chhed kar denge
(can drill a hole on someone’s forehead by spitting on it).”

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