There are many things to like about the Hindi- Tamil bilingual film, Saala Khadoos (also releasing as Irudhi Suttru) starting from the perfect title, the simple concept by director, Sudha Kongara who has debuted with a Tamil film earlier, the very credible co-producer, Rajkumar Hirani and it’s realistic cast.
There is a khadoos and bitter boxing coach—the usually pleasant Madhavan now sporting a beard, long unkempt hair barely revealing his eyes and lots of bulk, along with a constantly growling voice---and there is an untrained but God gifted fisherwoman—a real life kick boxer and a non actress, Ritika Singh ---- who thinks nothing of blowing some fists at anyone in sight, including her insufferably rude coach.
Madhavan’s Adi and Ritika’s Madhi are a refreshing sight in their shabbiest best. Unlike Priyanka in Mary Kom, there is not an inch of make up on Ritika’s face. Instead, there are all kinds of expressions, ranging from raw anger to more anger, unbridled joy and love to determination and triumph.
Saala Khadoos follows the regular Sports film format- that of an underdog trained by a wronged and embittered former boxing hero who could have won a championship. The underdog appeals that much more because it’s a woman and that too from a very poor family fisher people in a village in Chennai. There is a rival coach (Zakir Khan) and head of Sports Association, who is the enemy from the past. There is a nice ally, a junior Chennai coach (Nasser) who brings in some melodrama along with Madhi’s sister (Mumtaz Sorcar) in a nice but predictable subplot.
All these put together, start off really well against the backdrop of a rustic Chennai, with a smattering of some funny dialogues. But soon, each scene gets clichéd and the focus shifts dangerously towards romance. The conflicts are too blah and seen before.
One keeps waiting for the adrenalin to kick in, the kind that gives you a Sports film high, the old wounds along with the new, in boxing rings which should get the blood to boil; the challenging, harder blows inside boxing rings that should bring out cries of ‘oh no’. Unfortunately, there are very few boxing match sequences and the film moves directly to the grand finale, without giving us the satisfaction of the mean and tough fight.
So, when the eventual blood and glove moment comes, you don’t exactly cheer. Instead, you mildly tear up when Madhavan in his finest moment, chokes, “Meri Mohammad Ali.”