The concept of a film about the Indian Ice Hockey Team sounds not unlike the concept behind John Candy’s celebrated biopic of the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team, only, perhaps with some synchronised dancing thrown in. Rest assured: One More is an independent film, and in the director’s Q&A that followed its world premiere on 9 March at the opening of London’s Pan-Asia Film Festival, Shivajee Chandrabhushan was at pains to point out there is nothing Bollywood about this movie, or any others he makes.
And nor is there.
It is Chandrabhushan’s second go (after the award winning Frozen) at shooting on location in the Ladakh region, the very northernmost nib of India, northwest of Kashmir and bounded by Tibetan China, way above the Himalayas, a thousand miles northwest of Everest. It’s about as remote as you can get, and in January, at 11,000 feet, it’s really cold. Lakes and rivers freeze: no need for an indoor hockey rink. So the idea that the Ladakhi Indians (who are closely related to the Tibetans) might play ice hockey (given that field hockey is the official national sport of all India) isn’t as comic as it might at first sound.
There aren’t many Ladakhi, though, so pulling a team together is hard, particularly when the outgoing manager has the bright idea of trying to match fix against the Mongolians, as happens in the opening sequence here, leading to international banishment. There remains, therefore, a Cool Runnings vibe about proceedings.
Being independent, One More is shot on a tight budget, and by and large filmed on steadycam and populated with real local characters rather than professional actors. This lends the film a certain charm, but an air of amateurism, which I’m bound to say is carried over to the script, the on-set direction, the screenplay and the pacing.
The dialogue is wooden, obtrusively signposted, and delivered with much enthusiasm but little craft. The film is curiously framed and edited, and Chandrabhushan has oddly failed to make the most of his extraordinary surroundings in which he has located the film. After a promising opening shot of a tiny figure moving in a monstrously mountainous winter landscape, wide shots of the mountains are few and almost self-consciously truncated, and golden opportunities to frame scenes in a way which make the most of the striking locale are fluffed.
One exchange in particular takes place in front of a rusty old fence and some scrubby bushes. Behind this, you can just about make out the majestic, snowy sweep of the Kunlun mountains, but you have to use your imagination. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why Chandrabhushan hadn’t moved the shot ten yards to the right to save the bother.
The film winds up with an extended ice hockey sequence. I won’t spoil the outcome, but an extended sporting sequence, particularly as the climax of a film, does requires specialist film editing of the sort it didn’t get in this film.
Perhaps I’m too expectant of traditional beats of archetypal Anglo Saxon movies, but here they were needlessly underplayed or missed, leaving the honesty and earnestness of all concerned (and what we saw of the scenery) to carry the film. It just about did that for me – I would certainly love to visit Ladakh – but others at the premiere were less patient and a number of them didn’t last to the end.
Director: Shivajee Chandrabhushan
Writers: Triparna Banerjee (screenplay), Triparna Banerjee
Stars: Karan Sharma, David Ropmay
Runtime: 90 mins