It was only a matter of time until kho kho knocked on the doors of the sports drama genre. We already have cricket, hockey, badminton, boxing and running. Now comes another addition to the list featuring the same old routine: an underachiever teaching his players to dream. Rajisha Vijayan slips into the role of a PT teacher named Maria Francis, who trains her team of girl students in the fine arts of the game.
So why should you watch Rahul Riji Nair‘s movie when it’s quite similar to the films generally found under this genre? It’s not like Kho Kho is the Citizen Kane of sports drama. The beats are overly familiar and move in the constant motion of ups and downs. After a torturous first session, when the students decide to leave the team, Maria motivates them with a simple recollection of her past. When the parents protest that they don’t want their children to participate in the game, Maria again consoles them with a lucid speech. You gained extra weight and found out about it just before a match? Don’t fret as there is something called exercising. Kho Kho keeps on throwing obstacles at the characters, and the characters keep on overcoming them.
So what’s new? Well, if you look carefully, you will discover a kho kho-like pattern in its rhythm and approach. Bear with me. The flashbacks are similar to the game, where any person could be selected for continuing the chase. A gunshot, in the beginning, brings us to the present timeline, in which Maria is seen taking a ride on a boat. When Maria feels demotivated, her father “appears” to encourage her. A knock on the door takes us back to a conversation between Maria and her husband Ben (Venkitesh VP). Normally, we would have dismissed all these as typical back-and-forth sequences. But here, it feels like a part of the game’s touch-and-go rule. Maria never holds the hands of her students but gives them a little push in the right direction. The conflicts, too, are touch-and-go (they don’t stay for long). The film wears its heart on its palm and touches our skin with it. Kho Kho, undoubtedly, follows a formula, but it also uses it unabashedly and well. The lesson here is this: it’s okay to use an overfamiliar pattern as long as you are able to employ it wonderfully.
Ultimately, Kho Kho is a sports drama that concentrates more on drama than sports. The game acts as a gravitational force that binds the teacher and the students together. The emphasis is more on the master-pupil relationship than the sport itself. And that’s why the game sequences stay satisfactory. They do their job and provide the necessary information: that these students are talented. Since Kho Kho is about the camaraderie between these girls, the most energetically charged scene here comes when the team jointly rebels against an abusive father.
Perhaps it’s the placid rural setting and the sincerity of the characters that combine to produce material that manages to deliver its required intent. You end up knowing a bit about kho kho, but you emerge with a great understanding of the importance of a good teacher.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.