Director: Amole Gupte
Writers: Amole Gupte, Amitosh Nagpal
Editor: Deepa Bhatia
Cinematography: Piyush Shah
Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Meghna Malik, Manav Kaul, Eeshan Naqvi, Subhrajyoti Barat

The Bollywood sports activities film has grow to be a veritable cottage trade. Every yr, we get a handful of movies that comply with a typical template – the invention of innate expertise, the household making sacrifices, a sweaty coaching montage, the darkish evening of the soul when the athlete loses his or her means, a loss so humiliating that each one appears misplaced after which, the triumphant victory. All of that is laced with an inspirational anthem – Chak De! India stays the gold commonplace – and a working commentary on social points. Inevitably, sports activities, and the journey of the athlete, morph into an invigorating cry of nationalism. The tricolour flies excessive. Think Mary KomBhaag Milkha BhaagM.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Dangal, Soorma, Panga, Gold, Saand ki Aankh. The record goes on.

Saina doesn’t deviate from the formulation. The movie relies on one in every of our greats – badminton champion Saina Nehwal, who has been a world number one participant and received over 24 particular person titles, together with an Olympic bronze medal. This is a star athlete who put Indian badminton on the worldwide map and made the game aspirational. Her story is one in every of striving, failure and blazing success.

Writer-director Amole Gupte hits every of the same old sports activities movie beats but in addition bungs in lady empowerment. The movie begins with a voiceover through which Saina describes herself as ‘Bharat ki beti’. We see a shuttlecock and racquet earlier than her face comes into focus – inside seconds, we all know that this won’t be a movie with subtlety or nuance. Saina’s story will play out in broad strokes.

Amole begins the narrative with Saina’s 2018 win on the Commonwealth video games. How she received right here is informed in flashbacks, beginning together with her mom Usha enjoying a sport of badminton whereas she’s pregnant with Saina. Much of Saina’s fireplace and grit is credited to Usha who resolved that her daughter can be a champion.  Usha’s iron hand jogged my memory of Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal. When Saina provides her a silver medal, Usha rewards her daughter with a convincing slap in public. Later at dwelling, she berates Saina for shedding the gold whereas the kid seems to be on sullenly. There is an older daughter hovering within the background who appears to be utterly ignored. Even when Usha sings a lullaby, it’s with Saina’s head in her lap. What does this degree of strain do to a toddler? Was there pressure between the sisters? Or the dad and mom because the mom propelled her daughter to world domination? Did Saina, who awakened at 3 am each day to be at coaching at 5, ever need a break day?

The movie doesn’t enterprise into these prickly areas. Instead, Amole chooses to give attention to tidy highs and lows. The first half, dedicated to Saina’s ascent, options coaching montages and matches in succession. The voiceover explains Saina’s pondering by a sport and the way she outsmarts her opponent however now we have little sense of her as a human being off the courtroom. The scenes grow to be repetitive and the pacing, sluggish. Thankfully, the drama picks up within the second half when Saina’s profession falters and she or he goes up towards her coach and mentor Rajan, modeled on Pullela Gopichand. This relationship throws up battle and emotion. And Manav Kaul does a advantageous job because the medical coach who’s hellbent on having his  protégés succeed.

Saina alternates between thrilling match sequences and boring stretches that appear tacked collectively like a highlights reel of the athlete’s life. One of the issues is that the opposite characters aren’t written sharply sufficient. Meghna Malik because the mom is bewilderingly loud however a minimum of she infuses power into the narrative. Saina’s love curiosity, Kashyap, modeled on her husband Parupalli Kashyap, doesn’t grow to be greater than a cheerleader. Her father who belongs to the pantheon of loving, daughter-supporting dads like Pankaj Tripathi in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, additionally does little other than cheering in entrance of the tv display, and in a single scene, peeling potatoes to allow them to have parathas.

The weight of this movie in fact rests on the shoulders of Parineeti Chopra. Like the movie, she is inconsistent. In some scenes, the physique language and inherent toughness appear performative. In others, her eyes discover the hearth and anguish of Saina’s journey. I don’t know sufficient about badminton to touch upon her approach however editor Deepa Bhatia cleverly splices by the match sequences in order that on courtroom, Parineeti doesn’t seem like an imposter. The music by Amaal Malik and lyrics by Manoj Muntashir and Kunaal Vermaa, particularly the rousing Parinda, stand out.

Saina begins with a disclaimer that it’s a fictionalised and dramatised model however the finish credit roll towards images of the true Saina and Parineeti in the identical poses, doing the identical actions and even sporting the identical garments. Which encapsulates the issue with too many biopics. Eventually, authenticity isn’t as vital as capturing the essence of an individual and evoking emotion. Saina, shining with sincerity and onerous work, additionally misses this important level.

You can watch the movie at a theatre close to you. Don’t overlook to put on a masks.

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