With an IMDb rating of 8.2, it’s safe to assume that Chak De India is a fantastic film. Released in 2007, the movie was instantly praised for its feminist subject matter. To choose 11 relatively unknown girls to rub shoulders with Shah Rukh “King of Romance” Khan was a gamble that admirably paid off. The movie still put the onus of winning the World Cup on SRK’s Kabir Khan rather than the 11 women he’s coaching but it was, as they say, baby steps. I mean, 9 years later we got Dangal and we’re still taking… even baby-ier steps.
Nevertheless, Chak De India managed to pull off two things at once. It gave us a great sports film that wasn’t about cricket and it brought women’s sport into the mainstream discussion. However, upon recent viewing, there was one scene in particular that stuck out like a sore, transphobic thumb. The scene opens with all our girls, Kabir and team sitting, looking dejected in the cafeteria when some Bollywood-produced sleazebags try to harass them with their Bollywood-produced lines. Upon witnessing this, our self-respecting and crowd-favourite Balbir Kaur gets up and delivers a rightfully deserved tight slap, when a fight ensues.
Cue the awesome girl power scene from Chak De India right about now…
Sitting at the sidelines, SRK, like any other half-decent coach, does not let anyone from his crew, not even himself, break the fight off. A metaphor of sorts, we decipher. Just when a fellow sleazebag, sneakily from behind, is about to hammer a cricket bat (I see what you did there, Mr Amin) on one of the girls, Kabir swoops in and rescues them. He stares down the sleazy cricketer and preaches, “Peeche se nahin, mardon ki tarah aage se ladon. Woh kya hain, humari hockey mein chakke nahin hote.” This one line came like a wind in my innocent world. It blew the nostalgia goggles right off of my face.
Why was there a need to put down a section of society to uplift another one? To be fair, older Bollywood has always been transphobic, as far as I can remember. And it is upsetting. We’ve been raised to think that the word “Chakka” is a slur. It doesn’t take much to treat this particular section of our society respectfully, especially now with the passing of the recent and controversial Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
2007 was 13 years ago and transphobia is still a prevalent issue in India. Movies like Chak De India deserve a celebration. They help young girls realise their dreams. But saying the movie aged gracefully would surely be a little amiss.