After Arjun Pandit (Costar Juhi Chawla) and his directorial debut Dillagi (Costars Bobby Deol and Urmila Matondkar) in 1999, Sunny Deol strikes back after a year-long gap with Champion, costarring Manisha Koirala and newcomer Rahul Dev. The film is a thriller directed by newcomer director Padam Kumar. Champion is, indeed, a thrill ride. Sometimes childish, mostly slick and fast-paced (Post-interval, anyways), Champion has our Punjabi Jatt strike back with a vengeance, and how!
The film revolves around a crazed Naseer (Rahul Dev), who, after the demise of his entire family, searches for and begins eliminating the wealthy industrialist responsible for the death of his mother, sister, and father. He succeeds in murdering the parents, but fails to kill their young, bratty son, Abbas, who is then placed in the protection of amateur cop Rajveer (Sunny Deol), from Patiala in Punjab. Naseer, imprisoned in a mental hospital, bribes the doctors and wardens into letting him out of the hospital for his nightly attempts at murdering Abbas. The film, in post-interval sequences, develops into an interesting game of cat-and-mouse, as Naseer begins stalking Abbas and Rajveer begins to thwart his evil designs. Manisha Koirala plays Abbas´ governess and friend Sapna, who falls in love with Rajveer and also models on the side.
Let me just start off by saying that Rahul Dev is here to stay. He tends to capture the viewer´s attention whenever on screen, always stealing the spotlight from more seasoned performers like Sunny and Manisha. His confrontation scene with Sunny in the mental hospital is chilling, as are the scenes post-interval where he stalks his victim. He turns in a brilliant performance, making one anxious to see him in forthcoming films like Inder Kumar´s Aashiq (Costarring Bobby Deol and Karishma Kapoor).
Sunny Deol is, as always, awesome. He proves with Champion that he is very much capable of shutting the door on younger actors. A real man, Sunny Deol is amazing in the action sequences, and just radiates pure power and strength.
Manisha Koirala has not much to do, which is a shame because she is a really talented actress (Witness Bombay, 1942: A Love Story, Agnisakshi, Khamoshi: The Musical, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Mann, Saudagar, and my two favorites Dil Se.. and Yugpurush). In some scenes she looks stunning and glamorous, but in other scenes, overweight and bored. She looks amazingly sexy in "Jatt Lutiya Gaya" and "Hai Aisa Champion Kahan" but overweight in "Ek Ladki Jiski Aankhen", in which her horrible clothes cling to her ever-so-chubby body. It´s a shame because had she been dressed in other, more fashionable outfits, she´d look great, despite the few extra pounds. Next up for Manisha is Grahan (With Jackie Shroff and Anupama Varma), Lajja (In which she is the main lead, despite the presence of stars like Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Ajay Devgan, and Madhuri Dixit), Mehbooba (With Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgan), Abhay (With Kamal Haasan, Raveena Tandon, and Tabu), and Moksha (With Arjun Ramphal). If advanced reports are to be believed, she has delivered the performances of her career in Grahan, Moksha, and Lajja. If you want to see some serious acting from this excellent actress, watch out for these films. In Champion, she is strictly the love interest.
Anu Malik´s music is good. Some numbers are nice, like "Jatt Lutiya Gaya", "Ek Ladki Jiski Aankhen", and "Hai Aisa Champion". All the songs have been picturized very nicely, especially "Jatt Lutiya Gaya" and "Na Baba". Technically, the film is great, with good special effects and awesome action sequences. The film drags in the first half, which is pretty mediocre stuff, with comedy and romance, but flies in the second half, once the suspense builds. The pre-interval sequences definitely needed some trimming.
Padam Kumar has done a good job with his debut film. The film is among one of the better thrillers of the year, but not as
good as, in my opinion, Khauff (Sanjay Dutt, Manisha Koirala). Khauff came under a lot of flak for its "borrowed" plot from
The Juror, but was still entertaining and slick. Padam Kumar is a better director than Khauff´s director Sanjay Gupta. Both
concentrate heavily on style and technical aspects of a film, but Padam Kumar has the edge over Gupta due to his nack for
storytelling, especially in the second half. So if you´re looking for a out-and-out thrill ride, complete with special effects,
stunts, and suspense, catch Champion -- you won´t regret it!