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Review | Shabaash Mithu – All Out Too Soon

Shabaash Mithu is a biographical sports drama film based on the life of former Indian cricketer Mithali Raj. Taapsee Pannu is seen in titular role. The film is directed by Srijit Mukherji and produced by Viacom18 Studios.

Review Overview

General Rating

Summary

All Out Too Soon

A champion’s story that needed to be told with as much finesse as Mithali Raj’s batting, the Srijit Mukherji-helmed biographical sports drama on the former Test and ODI captain of the Indian women’s cricket team is like a match that’s lost immediately after winning the toss.  

There’s plenty of substance in the life of Mithali Dorairaj, better known as Mithali Raj (played by Taapsee Pannu). A childhood friendship with a tomboy who inspired her to turn cricketer, the two friends calling themselves the Sachin and Kambli of women’s cricket. The application of Bharat Natyam principles of fluidity and focus to cricket. A coach (Vijay Raaz as Sampath Sir) who fortuitously spotted her and picked her over her brother who aspired to be a cricketer. It was the son who was backed by the Tamil-speaking Dorairaj family in Hyderabad and not little Mithali until she chopped her braids to show her determination. A gruelling training that included nailing her shoe to prevent her from dragging her back foot. A relatable twist when the tomboy had to opt for domesticity.

Gender prejudice all the way – from her brother during childhood to sponsors and the board room of the big daddy cricket association. Discrimination right at the airport where the men’s team was lustily cheered and the women were asked to step aside for excess baggage before their first trip to England. Women’s cricket pooh-poohed as a dry well. The cricket association boss (played by Brajendra Kala) who sneered, “May as well send the cricketers’ wives to boost the spirits of the (male) players.” The women given hand-me-down jerseys from the male players. A ballsy moment in the boardroom when Mithali led her team to acquaint the cricket association with their identities, their pehchan.   

Srijit opened with a girl peeing beside a boy. Later, the women players squatted behind bushes while the men’s team adorned hoardings. A peeing and seeing scene to show gender disparity.  

Mithali’s dreams of women in blue winning their rightful place out there on the ground, back there for washroom and other facilities, and up there on hoardings.  

Inter-team jealousies that tried to trip Mithali. A freshers’ camp and menstrual cramps. But despite the sledging by teammates and the morale bashing by Captain Sukumari (Shilpi Marwaha), Mithali emerged the champ, the youngest woman cricketer to debut with a hundred. 

However, writer Priya Sven and the director turn the rousing tale of Mithali Raj into a lengthy and listless film. Count an outdated arranged marriage scene. The girls looking at the stars. A Chak De! inspired inspirational speech in the dressing room that’s rather uninspiring.  A very drab monologue from Noorie (Anushree Kushwaha), her tomboy friend, on what she’s lost out. A teammate’s marriage.

Packed with unexcitingly filmed matches, and showdowns and sequences that have no sparkle, Srijit uses the background score by placing it annoyingly for every occasion. Here’s a list: A ‘kabool’ inserted into sad music that plays as Noorie weds and Mithali bats at the crease. A background song when Sampath Sir passes away and Mithali’s at the crease again. A background song while the girls go through their training and fitness regimen. When the score stops, Taapsee’s voice takes over with a ‘Ghoorne ki bajai’ speech. Another background song that goes ‘Toote phoote sapne’ when Mithali quits and goes home to make perfectly round dosas that don’t stick to the tava. Sukumari who’s returned as the coach, gets a background voice telling her to do what’s right for the team. Mithali’s return as captain of the team gets another background score. Yet another when the team’s out on the field. And another when they lose the World Cup Finals with visuals of various people weeping. 

To be fair, Mithali adding ‘World Cup’ to the negative side of her list of what she has and what she doesn’t, was neat and telling.

The climax of the dejected women’s team returning to an unexpected hero’s welcome at the airport, rounded off with the Prime Minister’s call that congratulated the women in blue for whipping up interest in women’s cricket, was uplifting. 

But it was a climax that came 2 hrs 40 mins too late, like a boundary hit long after the last ball had been bowled.

Shabaash Mithu Trailer:

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Review | Shabaash Mithu - All Out Too SoonAll Out Too Soon