For all those who are wondering about what came first - 'The Men Within' or 'Chak De' - here are the facts. 'The Men Within' was released on February 28, 2007 while 'Chak De' released on August 10, 2007. Clearly 'The Men Within' came about seven months before 'Chak De' did. Of course several people who read the novel felt that the plot of 'Chak De' was copied from the novel and some got agitated as well. Prominent among them was the late Rajan Bala who thought I should do something about it. But I have always said that this is a typical sports drama plot - underdog team, coach with past who needs redemption, bigger cause, preparation, implementation. Even time lines in most sports dramas are similar - say for people with some skill and preparation - a three month period will be perfectly fine to get things in place. A three month time line is acceptable in any game - be it hockey, cricket or most others to get desired results. Beyond that one can only get a team which is either made of kindergarten kids, school kids, college kids, adults or national teams. You choose.
But what makes each movie different is this - how originally has the team or coach approached the process to the goal. How have they created a goal, how did they train, what were their strategies, how did they use their resources, what were their guiding philosophies, how did they evolve, where did they get their strength from, how did they push over the line. That, if entertainingly shown, is what makes one sports drama different from another in my opinion.
Far as Chak de and The Men Within are concerned, the coaches are similar in background and passion but the process is different. While Kabir Khan, intense, straightforward, committed and full of integrity (all good coaches need this) allows the players to come to a level, he restricts them a bit by not allowing them to grow beyond themselves. Which is what Sampath does - he lets the kids own the dream, plan and prepare on their own while he guides them. It is evident in the last scene when Kabir Khan's captain looks at him for help and he guides her on where to move and she does. What if she had not looked at him? Sampath's boys have prepared on their own and know that whatever happens is because of their own efforts so there is really no need for them to look at him. To let go so fully is the greatest risk. But only the greatest risks get the biggest rewards. And only those who are the most secure can allow their wards that much of trust and freedom!