Saina Review: It Is What A Bio-pic Should Be

Saina

Starring Parineeti Chopra, Meghna Malik, Eshan Naqvi,Pavan Kaul

Directed  by Amole Gupte

Rating:****

Thank God for  true heroes. And for  a film about  a true  hero like  Saina Nehwal  rather than  some scumbag gangster whose life-story should be  thrown into  the  nearest gutter.Saina is  a picture-perfect biopic. Inspiring and engaging , it  makes all the right noises(and  that includes some wonderfully worded motivational  songs  in  the  background) and  shuffles its confident feet in the  comforting domain.

We may not get to see anything unexpected in this  biopic. The  bandwidth of storytelling  for all sports bio-pics  is nearly  identical: struggle  preferably with a pushy parent  goading the prodigy to  glory and greatness,  the  stardom, the fall, the final triumph.Saina goes  through the motions with  sure-handed  efficacy. 

The  sequences  on  the  badminton court are well shot . Cinematographer  Piyush Shah lenses  the  insecure middleclass girl and her skyhigh dreams  in the opposite  of rose-tinted  glasses.  No one  looks  like an amateur trying to  be professional  , least of all Parineeti  Chopra who plays  Sainawith  a kickass swagger. She  imbibes the real Saina’s courtly mannerism seamlessly. The  performance is  not showoffy.  It doesn’t invite attention. Rather, the  world of Saina’s  growth is constructed  tenderly brick by brick.

We  first meet young Saina( the  quietly effective  Naisha  Kaur Bhatoye ) being pushed almost to  the  edge  by her mother Usha Rani(Meghna Malik), herself  a state-level badminton player now thrusting her incomplete dreams on  her younger daughter.The elder one , played  with a graceful  anonymity  by  Dimple  Kalshan remains  in  the  shadows…Wouldn’t it have been  wonderful to know how  she feels  about her sibling being the  complete focus  of familial attention?

Some of  Usha Rani’s  bullying tactics  verge  on  child abuse. It is to Meghna  Malik’s credit that she  makes the  mother’s part more motivational . Her raging passion to see her  child excel is a revelation.Director Amole Gupte weaves  in and out of Saina’s  family  life  with tender care.The  dialogues are immensely helpful in giving the characters and the  plot points an  anchoring impetus. Saina’s gentle father(Subhrajyoti Bharat) is described as  “Do Bigha Zameen  ke BalrajSahni.”

And an affable coach describes the way Badminton   is  perceived  in our movies  by  referring to the song Dhal  gaya din  from  Humjoli where Jeetendra and Leena Chandravarkar  reduced the shuttle-cock to a beat maker. Cinema  literate  and articulate, Saina will make  you  laugh  out load and move you to tears. 

In one sequence after Saina is  ordered  by her  coach  to have a dozen  egg whites  for  breakfast,Saina  mother  wonders what they will do with all the yoke. This is  followed  by   a shot   of the  ever-docile father with  a plate filled with egg  yokes  in  front of him.

Speaking of the coach ,his name  has been  changed from Pullela  Gopichand  to Rajan. And understandably so. As  played by Manav Kaul he comes across as some kind of an egotist, forbidding Saina from seeing her  incredibly devoted  boyfriend  Kashyap(real-life badminton player Eshan Naqvi,  playing  certifiable  son-in-law material). One  of  the  film’s  finest  verbal  duel is in Rajan’s chamber where  Saina refuses  to be bullied into submission . At one point  when Rajan tells  her  that a relationship  is a distraction Saina wonders why Sachin Tendulkar marrying at  23 was  okay, a female  sportsperson with a  love interest  is not.

Saina  spreads it wings far and  wide creating a commodious  yet compact  world  of sports and sexism, parental  bullying and  filial  allegiance,  sport etiquette and  sporting tolerance, big dream and  bigger achievements…The  theme song Main parinda  kyon banoon mujhe aasman ban-nahai/Main panna  kyun  banoon mujhe dastaan  ban-na  hai says  it all.  

Quietly effective  in  the dramatic  moments  and  unabashedly celebratory in tone, this  is  how a  bio-pic should be.

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