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Daisy Shah a reason to watch ‘Gujarat 11’ (2019)

Gujarat 11 (2019)

Gujarat 11 is promoted as the first Gujarati sports film and stars popular and handsome Gujarati actors Daisy Shah and Pratik Gandhi. The story mixes in a number of themes, but while each theme has good points, they are not enough to forgive 2 hours and 20 minutes of banality.

In the story, policewoman Divya (Daisy Shah) assembles a boys team from residents of Juvenile Homes in Gujarat to compete in a football tournament. Through back story we learn that she is a former captain of India’s national team, but a knee injury ends that career and grants her a new one as a police officer. Her goal is to teach the boys that football can change their lives, just as it gave her the career that brought her to them.

The many themes

The film weaves in the themes of the strong independent and fearless woman, the childhood friend Nirmal (Pratik Gandhi) who is besotted with her and sponsors the team, police and juvenile home corruption and abuse, overcoming sexism from the boys and the bad guys, a revelation of life in juvenile homes, overcoming ethnic differences and disabilities, and redemption of the juveniles through football.

Gujarat itself is also a theme – it is a very industrialized state on the west coast of India. Gujarati is the main spoken language, and its native film industry is quite robust.

For comedy relief, Kavin Dave is Panchal, Divya’s portly assistant coach who is either eating or panting in most scenes. There are also 2 Bollywood dance numbers.

The soccer

The soccer is recreational level and very contrived. I found it so boring that I was thoroughly annoyed when the story got to the final penalty shootout, and there were still 17 minutes left in the film.

I thought it was curious that the tournament scenes included footage from all 8 teams. I would have assumed they would just use the same players over and over with different jerseys, but the credits list all the rosters.

This made me wonder if there had been a real tournament, but I couldn’t find any reference to such an event that would have occurred prior to or during filming. Football Delhi announced a Juvenile Homes Football League around the time the film was released, but I could find no followup story to confirm that it happened.

Daisy Shah said she trained 2 months for her role. Her character Divya has a flashback scene of the international game that ruined her knee, and for some strange reason, 2 other scenes have her juggling or kicking a red CGI ball. She also spends quite a bit of time in the film explaining to the boys the basic strategies and formations of soccer. 😴 One thing that didn’t make sense from her back story was that she can’t kick soccer balls anymore, but she can deliver plenty of karate kicks to drug dealers.

Juvenile Homes in India

In the early part of the movie, Divya goes through a long tryout and selection process at all the juvenile homes to find her team of 20 boys, reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven. Assistant Panchal points out to Divya that some of the boys are murderers and maybe cannot be rehabilitated, but Divya instead sees their potential.

In researching, I found that Juvenile Homes were first created in 2000 but appear to be poorly funded and ill-supervised, with crimes against the children committed by the adults who work there. Children under 18 are sent to juvenile homes when they are “in conflict with the law”. They have committed or are accused of crimes that would be subject to at least 7 years of prison, including: theft, assault, murder, and transporting illegal items. However, the homes exist because every child deserves a second chance.

In conclusion

Give Director Jayant Gilatar credit for trying to make his film more interesting than the usual underdog/redemption cliché. I am always impressed that Indian film companies are so efficient that they can shoot in February and release by November.

Daisy Shah’s acting is fine, even if her football is not. If you are not a football fan, Daisy Shah might be reason enough to watch the film.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6

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This is my first movie review in 2021!