Discursive Analysis of Movies - Sports as a Discourse

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Discursive Analysis of Movies - Sports as a Discourse


Popular cinema is considered as a reflection of the social set up. The characters, role play and the story line is designed and weaved around the perspectives that exist in the society, the paradigms which have developed based on the discourses that exist and the predicament which comes into play as a result of conflicts in the system. This article aims to explore how contextual differences bring about changes in the otherwise similar plot in movies. To understand this, two movies namely Chak de! India and Miracle have been taken, both of which are based on the discourse of sports. Sports represent a miniature form of society which has rules similar to social norms and positions similar to role divisions in society.

Chak de India is based on the story ofhow a former captain of Indian Hockey team, who was treated as a ‘traitor’, prepares a team of 16 girls for World cup and makes them win or leads them to victory. Similarly Miracle is a movie based on the plot as to how a former Hockey player who couldn’t play in the finals,trained a squad of college students and converted them into a team which not only played against the invincible Soviet Ice Hockey team but also came out as a winner. Despite being based on the same discourse and having a similar plot there can be seen many points of differences which are primarily due to the different audiences that these movies were to cater to.

Chak De! India goes beyond the discourse of sports and tries to present many different facets of Indian society through this sports drama. It explores religious divide, how India Pakistan partition has created a deep rooted divide and animosity between people of two communities who shared cordial relations of neighbours before that. It also brings forth the regional prejudices and the prevalent perceptions about the people who hail from less developed parts of the country. This movie also brought paradigm shiftsthat are taking place in the role of women in the society where now girls have become self-dependent, educated and are participating equally with men in all walks of life.This has led to the family versus career fight which is a predicament to the age old belief that girls only take care of home.Casting is also done to appeal to the general public, as unlike established stars as players, girls from different regions, speaking different languages, representing different cultures were chosen so as to represent the diversity which exists in India.Also they were shown as timid in the beginning but later they break all the shackles of stereotypical perceptions about girls.

Miracle, on the other hand, is a mix of ‘patriotism’, ‘team building’ and ‘spirit of game’. The movie is about how a man motivates few players to have complete faith in themselves, trust their strengths and play for the country and make everyone proud.This can be seenfrom these lines which coach said to his team-“All-star teams fail because they rely solely on the individual's talent. The Soviets win because they take that talent and use it inside a system that's designed for the betterment of the team.”

Both the movies also differ in their temporal terms,though both the movieswere screened at a gap of only 3 years but they portray very different eras. Chak de! India depicts the modern day India where lies a blend of ‘modernity’ and orthodox believes. On one sideanimosity between India and Pakistan still exists which got aggravated after the Kargil war, on the other hand, it depicts how the gender bias is taking another turnand women are coming forward in all the fields. But there was also a depiction of power play where the main hero of the movie is still a ‘man’, the coach in this case who didn’t play the match directly unlike those 16 girls.

Miracle on the contrary is based on a story which belonged to the 1980s.It was the cold war era where USA had not become a world power and was still struggling to create its position in the world politics.This was shown in the movie when after the win, the commentator said, “A group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most, a chance for one night not only to dream but a chance once again to believe.”

The movies also differ in terms of social perception of motivation in the two societies. In Miracle where in the latter half of the movie when the coach came to the dressing room to motivate boys for the ‘big’ match, he used positive motivational words to increase the sense of importance of all the players and told them that they all had the capabilities to win the game. Whereas in Chak de, the coach didn’t give them any motivational words directly but tried to bring out negative experiences which all of them had gone through in their respective lives and asked them to get motivated from them. Coach asked the girls to challenge the stereotypical thinking and said to the girls, “Do not think you are playing against 16 boys. You are fighting everyone in this country who thinks girls can never match up to men, cannot hold a job as well as a man, cannot make decisions like men. You are fighting each fool who has forgotten that if a girl has given life to him, she can do anything. Anything."

The two movies also differ in the way patriotism is perceived. In Miracle when they entered the stadium, the team is shown as an ‘army’ walking together to achieve the same goal representing ‘oneness’. Unlike India, USA doesn’t have that many differences of cultures and thus the feeling of a country is more ‘united’ in perception. In USA though people belong to different states but when its about USA as a nation and some external country, they stand as one and this gets represented very visible in the way the USA citizens show respect to the defence forces and people who lay their lives for the country.In the Indian subcontinent, the friction between the two countries namely India and Pakistan is so prominent that even good will gestures are seen with the eyes of animosity. This feeling of animosity gets so visiblein the field of sports, thatit becomes more prominent than the game itself. In Chak de!, when Indian team lost to the Pakistan team and in good sportsman spirit Kabir Khan (the coach) shook hands with the Pakistani player, this gesture became a highlight andeveryone considered him a traitor, a reason behind the loss of the game despite his brilliant performance in the past.So to prove that everyone was wrong, when he became the coach he tried to imbibe that feeling of belonging to Indian in all the players which is also visible from the dialogue-“Mujhe states ke naam na sunai dete hai na dikhai dete hai ... sirf ek mulk ka naam sunai deta hai I-N-D-I-A.”Also the fact that India was once colonized by the British has still not been forgotten by Indians and performing better than them gives a sense of satisfaction to the National pride. This can be seen in the movie when in the World Cup the coach said, “Pehli baar kisi gore ko India ka tiranga leharate hue dekh raha hoon”

The two movies also differ on the discourse of gender. Chak de! India unlike Miracle is based on a team of girl hockey players. The gender bias in India has been there in the society in some wayor the other in both manifest and latent forms as given by the Sociological thinker Merton. There is a stereotype role division in the society where men are supposed to do the jobs which are attributed as‘male’ and women are supposed to do the jobs which are considered ‘female’ in nature like, taking care of the family and home, upbringing children. But as Marx explained about the conflicts which arise due to marginalization these biases have led to ‘feminism’which came as a response to this andpropagates women empowerment. Same picture has been depicted in the movie, as when the Coach tried to convince the committee to send this team for World cup, the committee members made fun of him saying that the girls should sit at home and they cannot and should not dream so big.In this movie it was also shown how girls in their native places had to fight with their families and had to take a stand and say that this game is not just for the boys but girlscan play equally well and can represent the country at the world level.

USA is an individualistic society where every individual is considered important and society gives a lot of opportunities to each one to develop. The line -‘Play Your game’, is a very common line used in sports and was very frequently used in Miracle.It emphasized on the fact that ‘you have it all what it takes to be a winner so just believe in yourself and perform’. In the 1980s when Japan was making great progress in the spheres of technology, NBC issued its white paperon USA telling the world that they too can through the line,‘If Japan can why can’t we’. This is also very prominently visible in the body language of the coach in the final match whose team was fighting against the Russian team which was believed to be the best team of that time, but he stood there as a confident coach who had full faith in his team and believed that they could do it. On the contrary in Chak de! the coach is seen as nervous also at times in the final match because for him it was just not about winning a match, his loyalty for the country was at stake and his own reputation, reinstating him as an Indian loyalist. That moment he just didn’t represent an individual but represented a group of community which comes under allegations due to some bitter past experiences.

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One major difference in the two movies is the way climax has been portrayed. Where in Chak de! the game went to a tie breaker and the Indian team won after a long and challenging fight. In Miracle, it was USA team that made the final goal and Russian team who had been invincible all this while was shown chasing and ultimately failing to prevent the goal. This climax goes well with the attitudinal discourse in the two countries, in India where there is a general perception that its only after lots of hard work and persistent effort one can attain success but sincerity always pays, the team won the World Cup despite the fact that in the beginning it was among the weakest teams. In USA, on the other hand the common perception is that USA is the world power and superior than any other nation especially Russia which has been a competitor to it all these years in power circle and so in the movie despite the fact that Russia throughout the season was the top most team, it just couldn’t stand in front of USA team.

Music in the two movies also is based on the connoted meanings which both the movies are trying to depict where in Miracle it is about believing in your own self and uniting to reach the goal and thus the song-“You got to lose to know how to win….Dream until your dream come true.” In Chak De the connoted meaning is that there are lots of differences in terms of region, language and especially religion but there is still onething that unites all equally and that is the feeling that all belong to India and thus the song “teeja tera rang tha main toh, jeeya tere dhang se main toh”

Overall both the movies demonstrate the effect social norms, social beliefs and role divisions have on the way the individuals think and believe and how anomalies bring about the paradigm shifts. Connoted message in both the movies is that when you fight for a ‘big game’, apart from talent, complete faith in yourself and ‘oneness’ of the team is needed because everyone has some different strength but when people truly unite as a team any goal becomes attainable despite all odds. But the motivation that brought team members together in both the movies was different and was in accordance with the society of people that they represented.

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                                                                                                                   - By Amol Langer – HR Leadership Program 2014-15

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