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Just when one thinks Soorma, the biopic of Indian hockey star Sandeep Singh, doesn’t have weight, the character is shot in the back. The bullet wound from the accidental injury crippled Sandeep’s career and his love life.

Although losing his girlfriend may have been the case in real life, in this lightweight enjoyable adaptation, director Shaad Ali transforms Sandeep’s romantic estrangement into a stimulus to get him on his feet again. As far as cinematic terms go, the power of true love has never been more pronounced, or miraculous, than this.

Soorma introduces Sandeep as a youngster without motivation who runs away from hockey training after his coach beats him on getting his samosa order wrong. Nine years later, Sandeep grows up into a strapping yet still unmotivated man (Diljit Dosanjh), who falls in love with an enterprising young lass named Harpreet (Tapsee Pannu) trained by the same ruthless coach.

Sandeep, with his head full of romance, rejoins the coach and, defying the odds, qualifies for the national hockey team.

In his first international series, he scores against Pakistan — who, like all menacing rival sportsmen, were on the lookout to get him off the field as fast as possible. Sandeep gets a broken nose, yet clinches the match with his specialty — a lighting fast drag-flick (a hockey goal-scoring technique).

The headlines declare him “Flicker Singh.” An honorary job from a high-profile conglomerate awaits his return. Sandeep, his brother (also a hockey player) and their parents move into a bigger house. Harpreet wants him to win the World Cup before marriage — and the audience buys their romance.

Sensing the limited scope of the story, Shaad Ali (Saathiya, Bunty Aur Babli, Kill Dil) doesn’t stray far from the underdog-who-wins-against-odds formula, infusing a heavy dose of romance to make Sandeep and Harpreet appealable to the masses.

This tactic works, because the screenplay doesn’t really have much to go on other than the quick rise to fame and a back injury.

Pannu is a fine actress while Dosanjh, who starred in Welcome to New York and Sajjan Singh Rangroot, has matured quite a bit since last year. Their chemistry makes Soorma work, and for a fleeting moment or two, makes you believe in the magic of love.

Vadhayiyaan Ji Vadhayiyaan

Vadhayiyaan Ji Vadhayiyaan, the second Punjabi language release from India within a month’s time, by filmmaker Smeep Kang, makes me realise three things. First: derivative, regional language movies have a definite market in Urdu-centric metropolitan cities such as Karachi; secondly: most of the stuff is darn rib-tickling; and thirdly: there isn’t even a whisper of vulgarity.

In the movie Binnu Dhillon plays Pargat, a bachelor nearing his 40s, who is fed up of his parents’ blasé attitude towards his single status. Unfortunately, getting him a wife isn’t easy. No family in the area wants Pargat as their son-in-law.

His woe-stricken backstory goes something like this: one night, when Pargat was drinking away his sorrows at a relative’s wedding, he was framed by the bride when she is caught eloping. The next day at the local community’s tribunal, her lover valiantly steps up to marry the girl, and Pargat’s family — forever tainted by the repercussions of his act — had to boot the wedding bill.

Naturally, Pargat’s mum and dad (Rupinder Rupi, B.N. Sharma), who excel in uncorked rapid-fire insults, won’t let him hear the end of it.

Enter Gagan (Kavita Kaushik), a smart, spirited woman whose father (Jaswinder Bhalla) has a tendency to lie about his job (in one scene, he announces himself as a food inspector to a roadside vegetable vendor to get a discount; in another, he tells a security guard at the mall that he is a high-ranking police officer).

Gagan and Pargat hit it off. However, the night before his parents are set to visit the girl’s family, Pargat knocks his head on an iron pipe and loses his eyesight for good. Terrified of losing the girl, Pargat feigns normalcy, stumbling over furniture and people while making lame excuses. At times, one genuinely feels bad for Pargat.

One of the reasons for Pargat’s likeability is that the script doesn’t indulge in over-the-top physical theatrics, leaving the weight of the comedy on mock banter and unpretentious character development. As someone who doesn’t understand much Punjabi, I’m mildly surprised by my ability to follow dialogues even when their delivery becomes exuberant.

Director Kang, who just delivered Carry On Jatta 2 with practically the same cast, doesn’t have much of a story to bank on. However — and this is something Pakistani filmmakers should note — the plot’s layout has a film-like momentum, irrespective of the movie’s humble production budget or its brightly-lit, colour-steeped cinematography (the reds, greens and yellows are so vibrant that they end up making you hate primary colours for good).

Sure, there are throwaway scenes and characters — actors Gurpreet Ghuggi, Karamjit Anmol, Upasana Singh in particular. Still, the self-effacing, happy-go-lucky ambience and the cast’s sharp, comic timing makes for a gratifying — though not guffaw-inducing — experience.

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 22nd, 2018