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Saina Movie Review: A predictable drama that nearly scores

Updated on: 26 March,2021 11:09 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinamra Mathur |

Amole Gupte’s telling of badminton star Saina Nehwal’s story is not very much different from the other biopics, but not without its moments.

Saina Movie Review: A predictable drama that nearly scores

A still from the film Saina, Picture Courtesy: Mid-day archives

U/A; Drama
Director: Amole Gupte
Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Manav Kaul, Meghna Malik
Rating: ***

Is it possible for Bollywood makers to deviate from the often chosen path while telling an inspirational story of rags to riches? Biopics have simple and unbroken rules of following the template that has been set by multiple real-life stories before. Some have been dumbed down, some have been remarkably real. Amole Gupte’s Saina tilts slightly towards the former, and the filmmaker puts the dumbing down to good use.

Parineeti Chopra as the badminton star met with mixed responses when it was announced she’s stepping into her shoes. The physical dissimilarity led to copious dissatisfaction but the film digs deeper into the badminton star’s gruelling struggles. Even though there are some vocal inconsistencies, Chopra gives this complex role her all. After some faltering and frustrating film choices, she seems to be hinting at a possible resurrection with risky decisions. 

Watch the trailer of Saina

Gupte seeks solace in fragile yet ferocious characters that start off as underdogs and go on a triumphant journey to defy all odds. Be it Taare Zameen Par (where he was credited as the creative director) or Hawaa Hawaai, which was based on the sport of skating, all these titles are about people for whom success at first seems impossible, and a glimmer of hope acts as a ray of sunshine. In Saina, that ray of sunshine is Saina’s mother, played by the fascinating Meghna Malik, who holds the screen with a commanding aura. 

Manav Kaul plays Pullela Gopichand, Nehwal’s coach. Kaul is one of the most exciting actors around. Amole Gupte and writer Amitosh Nagpal never heighten his character arc to create a room for sympathy for our protagonist, a blunder that was evident in another sports drama, Dangal. What is apparent are the lines. The indefatigable and indefinite passion for the sport in Nehwal is established by her will to break The Great Wall of China. The way she says this, the intent could be physical more than metaphorical. Her aim to represent the country is met with an endearing response at home.

In nearly all sports dramas, a man or a woman’s dream has always been gazed at with disdain by his/her parents. In this regard, Saina dares to stand out and not follow the crowd. But has there been a film where a woman has not been subjected to lines that suggest her place is in the kitchen? The idea of a woman’s aspirations being caged by male chauvinism doesn’t sound novel anymore. The intent of creating a woman character refusing to let her kitchen be her home ground doesn’t feel progressive anymore. But cinema, with its magic and madness, can suck you in its world at times, despite all of its predictability.

One cannot help but root for Saina (both the film and the character) as she climbs one step after another. By the end, one is likely to cheer and clap, more for Nehwal than Chopra, because, unlike the film, nobody knew what would happen in her life next, not even the shuttlecock and the badminton racquet. 

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