Star cast: Aanaahad, Shraddha Das, Sushant Singh, Shraddha Nigam, Farooque Shaikh, Sabyasachi Chakraborty.

Plot: The strained relations between India and Pakistan are being sought to be improved by the two governments but there is tension when Indian kick-boxer Sushant Singh is killed while fighting Pakistani kick-boxer Mukesh Rishi in an Asian championship. Sushant’s cricketer-brother, Aanaahad, learns kick-boxing to seek revenge. Does he avenge his brother’s death? Do the relations between the neighbouring countries improve?

What’s Good: The intentions behind the film.

What’s Bad: Overdose of kick-boxing from start to end. This, when the two countries actually don’t play this sport. Fiction has been mixed with fact (improvement of relations).

Verdict: A well-made film which won’t make any box-office sense.

Loo break: Some kick-boxing practice sessions.

Sai Om Films Pvt. Ltd.’s Lahore is a film about Indo-Pak relations with kick-boxing as the backdrop. S.K. Rao (Farooque Shaikh) is the Indian kick-boxing coach and Sikandar Hyaat Khan (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) is his Pakistani counterpart.

In an Asian kick-boxing event in Malaysia, India’s Dhirender Singh (Sushant Singh) is fatally injured while engaged in kick-boxing with Pakistan’s Noor Mohammad (Mukesh Rishi). Dhirender’s mother (Nafisa Ali), cricketer-brother Veerender Singh (Aanaahad) and girlfriend Neela Chaudhary (Shraddha Nigam) are devastated and so is coach Rao. To avenge his brother’s death, Veerender decides to give up cricket and trains under Rao to become a kick-boxer. He gets the chance he wanted – to be in the ring with his brother’s killer, Noor Mohammad. Veerender thinks, it is his golden chance to settle scores with Noor as the latter had gotten away with a clean chit after the incident that claimed his brother’s life. What was worse was that India, too, had underplayed the incident as the focus of the Indian government was on strengthening Indo-Pak ties and forging peaceful relations between the two neighbouring countries.

What happens in the game of kick-boxing between Veerender Singh and Noor Mohammad? Does Veerender seek revenge? Does the Indian team win the championship or is it the Pakistani team? Where does that leave the mission of friend- ship between the two nations? These questions are answered in the climax.

Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan’s script offers an old story against a new backdrop (of kick-boxing). But since the two countries don’t ever participate together in kick-boxing championships in real life, the impact of the genuine part of the story – forging friendly Indo-Pak relations – is reduced considerably. Also, there is such an overdose of kick-boxing – which is not even our national game or, for that matter, one of the popular games of India – that it gets on the audience’s nerves. For this reason, the ladies and families, especially, would not at all find the drama interesting. Besides, it takes time for the viewers to understand the proceedings in the initial reels as the relationships between different characters is not clearly established.

Overall, although the intentions of writer Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan are well-meaning, his choice of narrating his story against the backdrop of a sport that is hardly popular in India seems to be the weak point. To make matters commercially difficult is the fact that there is not much face value in the film. Dialogues, also penned by story and screenplay writer Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, are good but don’t have the desired patriotic flavour. All in all, the script is old wine in new bottle but the novel bottle (game of kick-boxing) is not what will excite or engage the viewer.

The climax looks like a victory of the Pakistani team because they are shown to be large-hearted, something which the Indian audiences will resent.

Aanaahad is not hero material at all. He does a fair job for a debut film. Shraddha Das plays his Pakistani girlfriend with a perfect understanding of her character. Sushant Singh is very convincing. As his girlfriend, Shraddha Nigam is natural to the core. Farooque Shaikh may have performed ably but he hardly looks the kick-boxing coach he plays, complete with a paunch et al. Sabyasachi Chakraborty does a very fine job. Mukesh Rishi lives his character. Nafisa Ali is effective. Nirmal Pandey has been hopelessly wasted. Kelly Dorjee does an average job. Saurabh Shukla goes through his inconsequential role mechanically. Ashish Vidyarthi is alright in a brief role. K. Jeeva is good. Pramod Moutho and the others fill the bill.

Director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan handles the subject with the sensitiveness it deserves. His narrative skills are quite good but he has given so much footage to kick-boxing from the first reel to the last that it is difficult to cater to the tastes of the masses. Tony Leung Siu Hung’s action scenes and Neelabh Kaul and Rolf Dekens’ camerawork make the drama somewhat exciting. M.M. Kreem’s music goes with the film’s mood. Wayne Sharp’s background score is effective. Sandeep Singh Bajeli’s editing is okay.

On the whole, Lahore has its heart in the right place but that will not translate into box-office returns because the game of kick-boxing will not find many takers. It will win critical acclaim but will fail miserably at the box-office.

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