Diljit Dosanjh, who won acclaim for second lead roles, gets to play his first title role as international hockey player Sandeep Singh in Soorma (2018). The best thing about the actor is the softness about him, along with an endearing earnestness. Diljit adds quiet strength, finesse, and power to this ordinary-turned-extraordinary tale of a man who fought and conquered his paralysis.

Romance shadows the first half as Sandeep Singh is more set on doing somersaults for Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu) than hockey. It is love at first flick on the hockey ground as he croons Ishq Di Baajiyan. The song is lovely and Diljit works his magic despite the rough first-cut singing. In the movie, the first picturisation looks dreamy but is a distraction later in its multiple repetitions. There is also a bromance going on with his brother Bikramjeet Singh (Angad Bedi), also his mentor and part-time trainer. Although Sandeep’s sole motivation for playing hockey is winning Harpeet, he sets about making a name in the game for himself with the help of Bikram and coach Harry (Vijay Raaz) who is impressed by his drag flick. A shocking shooting accident pushes a roadblock on his way to success, and he loses his mobility.

The story is told with heart for sure, director Shaad Ali rightly chooses a linear format, co-writing with Suyash Trivedi and Siva Ananth. This works when the player is interacting with his family, but for the sport scenes, the sense of adrenaline on field hockey pitch isn’t captured as effectively. The hunger, and taste of victory is missing. Sandeep Singh’s recovery journey account on TED Talks, where he talks about being lonely in his rehabilitation, is better than the narrative here, which is a disappointment. It is rushed and stays in the sweet, tame zone. Shaad misses building and exploring the layers of Sandeep’s internal battle, leaving those painful moments out.

The movie picks up pace after he gets back with The Soorma Anthem, when he trains with his brother. It is the best inspirational song I have heard in recent times: the strings of my heart strummed higher with every thumping beat and Mahadevan’s booming voice. It is on my loop, and a definite top scorer for gym and running playlists. On the plus side, I loved the way Sandeep is shown wearing his heart on his sleeve, and Harpreet is shown as ambitious, and they resolve the love story without judging her. The authentic locations of Shahabad, Chandigarh, and Belgrade, are captured effectively by Chirantan Das. Farooq Hundekar does a smooth job with the editing.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy roll out the rest of the songs as superbly as the first two. Good Man Di Laaltain is fun, Pardesiya is soulful, and Flicker Singh is boisterous. Gulzar digs into his Punjabi roots to string innovative words like Ding Ding, Flicker Singh! and Padhariye. And of course, there is his quirky word play in Dhajji dhajji raat purani, chhed subah ki nayi yeh kahaani and Shaam aa jaaye toh, uth ke chaand ka maatha choom loon.

The real hero of this venture is the ensemble of rock-solid performances from one and all. It is a truism that good casting makes or breaks a movie. Here it saves it from falling into the average zone. Kulbhushan Kharbanda plays the sharp, supportive chairman, and lends his solid presence with excellence. Seema Kaushal is sincere as Daljeet Kaur. Satish Kaushik as his hopeful, weary, and proud father Gurcharan Singh is superb. Vijay Raaz lights up the screen with his natural penchant for splendid.

Taapsee Pannu balances the layers between her passion for sport, ambition, and love with a wonderfully sublime act. Angad Bedi conquers with his rawness, sincerity, and strong energy. Diljit Dosanjh absorbs the heart and quiet spirit of Sandeep with a superb performance. His own earnest personality merges with Sandeep’s to work perfectly whether at home, or on field.

This inspirational outing is definitely worth a watch for its authenticity, strong cast, and a story as incredible as it is admirable.

4 out of 5

Soorma (2018). Director: Shaad Ali. Writer: Suyash Trivedi, Shaad Ali, Siva Ananth. Players: Diljit Dosanjh, Angad Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Seema Kaushal, Taapsee Pannu, Vijay Raaz, Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Lyrics: Gulzar. Theatrical release: Sony Pictures Networks India, C.S. Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.