'Dhan Dhana Dhan Karenge Goal' - The tune is everywhere. Be it the opening moments of the film when it plays on subtly in the background as the flop-brigade of Southall football club comprising of men from Indian, Pakistani and Bangaldeshi origin try to find their bearings. Be it the moments when their slightly pot bellied coach - Boman Irani - with an agile mind, precise reasoning and love for the game tries to infuse some self respect into them more than skills.
Be it the time when the team comes together to create this anthem and fine tune the rough edges while traveling in a privately owned bus that that may have been rampaged in World War II. Be it the time when the team members come together, and come together in the true sense, for the first time in a league match and sing the anthem with their eyes closed and fists locked. And be it the time when they start tasting success for the first time, only to take it forward till the grand finale.
The theme is special because the team led by Arshad Warsi has never felt how a win looks like. This is the reason why they concentrate more on defense rather than attack. Because their eyes are always set on saving that goal rather than scoring one. And the only man who could reverse the fortune is John Abraham, a BBFCD i.e. British Born and Forced to be Confused Desi, whose heart pines for playing with the 'gora' team.
This is where the racism angle is brought in which is not so subtle but also not so on-the-face that it diverts a viewer's attention from the theme of sports, self-respect and international integration. In fact this is one area where director Vivek Agnihotri needs a pat on his back as he brings forth the issue of racism when it comes to brown skin but keeps it well integrated as a part of the script rather than making it look artificial and gimmicky.
Coming back to 'Goal', it is it's setting which succeeds in giving a different color to the film. As the film is entirely set in UK, there is a certain international look and feel to the proceedings even when it comes to locations, costumes and accent. Most of the film is shot in real locations due to which football grounds, clubs, apartments, bars and other shops lend an authentic touch to the narrative.
To think of it, 'Goal' primarily works as an entertainer even with ingredients like sports, international integration, racism etc. involved. The film maintains it's consistent graph and there isn't any demarcation of first half v/s second half. The film moves on at the same rate for close to 2 hours with last 15-20 minutes showing a peak (expectedly).
The film requires a build up to the proceedings and all of this happens at a decent pace while interlaced with some light humor. There are jokes being shared between team members of different origins but none being below the belt. Subtle moments of naughty romance between John and Bipasha is held well too which works due to it's simplicity. Watch out for that locker room conversation between the duo! In fact Arshad's possessiveness for his sister Bipasha, his insecurity about her falling for John, his own bedroom conversation with John in a drunken state - all of this leads to some sugar-sweet chuckles which the audience doesn't mind in between all the league matches being played.
All this while, the film doesn't loose focus to the core issue of a flop team turning into a super-force. There are no lectures on motivation or leadership or 'desh-bhakti' which bring a turnaround. It is instead a round to Manchester United and a brief reference to their glorious past coupled with Boman's 'look-at-the-mirror' conversation which does the trick. In fact this scene at the interval is one of the major highlights.
Performances are pretty even in 'Goal'. It would be wrong to call either of John or Arshad to be THE hero in the film. Both of them have equal roles in the film and they are in true sense parallel leads. They get to perform on well etched roles and come up trumps. Arshad gives yet another fine performance in a serious role after 'Sehar'. On the other hand John completely looks the part as a young footballer who has to balance between his love for sports and the goodies which come along with it.
Ever dependable Boman is good yet again and it is nice to see him coming up with a composed performance sans any exaggerated expressions. Watch out for his subdued anger when a fight amongst team members breaks down in the locker room! Dilip Tahil, who is now seen occasionally in films, is impressive as a sports commentator cum player broker. The ladies who play Arshad's wife and the British officer fit the part well. Raj Zutshi comes up with one of his best performance while not being predictably hammy (as he is in most of his films). Kushal Punjabi is nice while the young man who plays Bangladeshi migrant is good.
"Hum Kaun Hai Hum Kya Hain Duniya Ko Bataenge....Dhan Dhana Dhan Dhan Karege Goal" - If there is one theme song which deserves to be blazing across all sports channels now, it has to be this. Yes, the Salim-Sulaiman tune for 'Chak De India', which has reached the anthem status, continues to be favorite but Pritam-Daler Mehendi combination for 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal' works in a big way too. And how!!