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JUST for a lark, they could have called this one ' Slumdog Striker'. This guy who battle the tough ghetto life and shoots all odds with sheer fingertip power on a carrom board would certainly make Danny Boyle proud.

Okay, director Chandan Arora hasn't exactly cloned Boyle's law. And his leading man Siddharth as ghetto boy Surya wasn't exactly running down oversized water pipes with a fullthroated Jai ho chant either. Still, Striker 's gritty camera swings ( PS Vinod) and sharp cuts ( Sajit Unnikrishnan) do reveal a passing nod to Slumdog Millionaire tech- tricks.

Director Arora and his co- writer Sunita Rajwar have given Tamil star Siddharth an authorbacked launchpad into Bollywood as solo hero. The actor impressed us with his underplayed emotions in that fabulous Rang De Basanti role. Arora's restrained idiom -- noted in his two films so far, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon and

Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh -- only prepares the pitch for Siddharth here.

The setting is the underground carrom scene of the eighties, ruled by gangsters and gamblers. Siddharth as Surya, a boy from slum- side Mumbai, has a knack for the game but his economic home truths force him to accept a job offer in Dubai. It's a scam of course, by a bogus employment agency. Surya returns home skint.

Now if Aditya Pancholi is making a comeback here as evil ganglord Jaleel with a knack for divisive politics and if Jaleel also runs a major carrom betting racket, the script has provided our hero a readymade villain for the finalE[umlaut].

Well, Striker wasn't exactly meant to be about surprises -- no underdog film ever is.

Still, watching Aditya Pancholi's hackneyed get- up as a ghetto gangster ( thick mooch, kohl- eyes, designer gash below one eye) you wished the film went easier on clichE[umlaut]s. And by the time Anupam Kher makes his presence felt as Inspector Farooque -- a cop as ramrod straight as none in the real world -- you realise that Chandan Arora, for all his honest intentions as writer- director- producer, has succumbed to conservative box- office rules.

Yet, all the clichE[umlaut]d trips about cops, gangsters and ghettos aren't where the film slips. Striker doesn't strike a chord because it is painfully slow and patchy. Arora fails to prove his worth as a storyteller. Still, no matter how predictable the film gets after a point, it has its moments.

Striker would also have been a better film if Arora was more assured about what he set out to do. The film is about the moral and the immoral, about poetic justice, about a ghetto boy and his big dreams, about crime, about romance, about friendshipC* about too many things actually, to keep track of.


Cast: Siddharth, Aditya Pancholi, Padmapriya, Nicollete Bird, Seema Biswas, Anupam Kher

Direction: Chandan Arora

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 6, 2010
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