Detailed movie review of Saina – the biographical sports film based on the life of Badminton player Saina Nehwal.
It’s a super serve as director Amole Gupte makes a stirring opening. She’s Bharat ki beti and she’s grown up with a racquet in her hand, not ladles from the kitchen. Top it with triumph and it can’t get more emotionally correct.
Later, there’s one line that sums up just how much tougher it is for girls who want to be world champs. When she’s pulled up by her coach for a romantic distraction, Saina Nehwal remarks, “Nobody questioned Sachin’s game when he got married at 22.”
It’s a rough trek to the peak for any gender but Gupte underscores that it was just much more difficult for Haryanvi girl Saina, a natural with the badminton racquet. On the other hand, perhaps it was just a bit easier for her since both her parents were once mixed doubles partners and mother Usha Rani played it at the district level. Supportive families turn talent into a champion’s game. And Gupte gives parents, sister and boyfriend Kashyap the spotlight they deserve.
Saina Nehwal’s rise from a middle-class background where her father seeks an advance on his PF to buy her a load of shuttlecocks and buffers her from her mother’s harshness has all the warmth that you seek in a success story.
Saina’s World No 1 status was so recent that it’s like watching an audio visual of yesterday’s newspaper headlines. But it’s also a fairly familiar trajectory that sports movies don’t deviate from. Cheers all around, turbulence around the corner and pump the air, she’s done it again.
Gender. The Indian flag. Showdown with coach. It’s all there, the graph familiar, as noted earlier. What Amole manages is to keep it straightforward and leave you feeling rather good that Saina could smash her way to a well-fought comeback.
Parineeti Chopra as Saina pushes herself admirably for a physically gruelling performance. Casting real life shuttler Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye as the young Saina works wonderfully for the sheer authenticity of her shots and a hint of a resemblance to the former world champ. Manav Kaul, called Rajan in the film, plays Gopichand Pullela, renowned for his dedication to the game and for refusing to do commercials. Kaul is the one with the stand out performance as the health and stamina conscious coach who makes Saina give up parathas and litres of milk. Meghna Malik is a tad too overbearing as the pushy Haryanvi mother.
It’s an eternal debate whether parents who slap children for coming second or live their own squashed ambitions through their offspring should be applauded and emulated. And Usha Rani’s unconcealed ambitions do sometimes make you squirm. Saina is pushed to perform while her older sister is pushed into a corner like she doesn’t matter. Feeding a grown-up Saina and focusing solely on her doesn’t seem like balanced parenting. Success is heady but is this family picture healthy? That question will always linger unanswered.
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