"When the heart begins to think like the head... that's when real success is achieved," says coach Naseeruddin Shah to his special student, a deaf-and-mute boy who strives to become a national cricket player.
The world of Nagesh Kukunoor's latest film is a mellow one of basic and valuable emotions. This isn't the first film where the director has dealt with the ambiguous world of adolescent dreams. Unlike Kukunoor's "Rockford", "Iqbal" rocks to a rustic and heartfelt raga-rhythm.
The location: a small Muslim village. The texture: tender and basic. The end result: a film that exudes the familiar aura of sweet dreams.
Though the music (Salim-Suleiman) and songs (Sukwinder Singh) tend to hammer in the message a trifle too insistently, this is a world where heart and head could easily exchange places.
Kukunoor's control over the emotional quotient ensures that Iqbal Khan's struggle to realise his dream doesn't get too maudlin. Each time Iqbal spins that ball across the dusty field, the screen lights up like the sun glimmering in a glorious giggle from behind surly clouds.
And yet a lot of brains has gone behind those spinning balls. Consciously or otherwise, Kukunoor has torn leaves out of Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Black" to create a quaint and compelling nugget on the triumph of the human spirit.
Wisely, Kukunoor doesn't allow Iqbal's journey from bucolic anonymity to national-level recogntion to be heavy handed or overstated. Often, the narration is so light to the touch, you tend to mistake the airiness for shallowness. To compound the sense of an extra-blithe souffl?, there are characters who appear to be straight out of a guidebook on symmetrically articulate cinema.
Iqbal's doting mother (Prateeksha Londkar), his forbidding cynical father (Yatin Karyekar) and his precocious and supportive sister (Shweta Prasad) and, most of all, the burnt-out alcoholic coach (Naseer) redeeming himself by taking on the corrupt system to get his prot?g? to be successful... these are characters we've encountered before, in movies from "Rocky" to "Chariots Of Fire", and from "Naache Mayuri" to "Black".