Stand By is a well-intentioned film on the political machinations that work behind the scenes in sport. But in its execution, the film fails to score. The promising storyline is laid to waste by an ensemble of poor actors, old-fashioned film-making and needless songs and item numbers.
The story is of two friends who come from opposite sides of the economic divide but share a common dream of playing football for India. Rahul Narvekar (Adinath Kothare) lives in a chawl and is raised by his portly single father (Sachin Khedekar), a former football player who jogs with the child every morning in the hope of making him a national-level footballer, but himself fails to lose weight even by the time Rahul becomes an adult. The modest young man now plays for Maharashtra with best friend and spoilt rich brat Shekhar Verma (Siddharth Kher).
The two are instrumental in helping the state win the Santosh Trophy after 10 years. But when Rahul gets selected into the Indian team and Shekhar is put on standby, the rotten side of sports administration raises its ugly head. Shekhar’s father (Dalip Tahil), a manipulative industrialist who funds the football association with sponsorship and the like, gets his gaudy suits into a tangle in rage and tries to get his son into the team by influencing the politician heading the association, trying to bribe the other players and even going after Rahul’s middle-class family. This leads to friction between the two friends and dramatic, if slightly predictable, consequences.
Well-intentioned: Rahul Narvekar as Adinath Kothare in Stand By.
The various messages—sports other than cricket need to be promoted, politics should stay out of sport, administrators are to be blamed for the poor state of football, and the difficulties an average sportsman goes through to get into the national jersey—come out loud and clear, perhaps too literally. Director Sanjay Surkar—who shares screenplay credit with Pravin Tarde—brings up the debate of merit versus entitlement and the kind of lobbying that often leads to questionable selections.
Unfortunately, the preachy and melodramatic narration is often comical. Overly made-up actors (Shekhar’s mother, Rahul’s girlfriend) bring in pained expressions from television soaps. Inaccuracies creep into the plot: Shekhar strangely is a “standby” for the Indian team when realistically there is no such category. He is also in talks to be included in some European league, arranged by moneybags father, when he can’t even make the Indian team. The Indian coach spews dialogues like “Cricket is a gentleman’s game. Football is a man’s game”, while a commentator calls Rahul India’s “golden boot”.
Apart from the intention, there are few positives. Kothare does a reasonably decent job, while the rest of the cast is ridiculous. Unnecessary montage/item songs slow the pace of a seemingly unending film. The football scenes are competently shot, given the rest of the film’s tacky presentation.
Stand By is easily avoided; Sunday’s Arsenal-Manchester United match would be a cheaper and infinitely more entertaining alternative.
Stand By released in theatres on Friday.