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Saina Review

Biopics Mar 25, 2021
Excellent
3.5

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3.5

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Saina Review & Rating

Saina Review: A Bollywoodish But Watchable Inspiring Biopic

Olympic spirit

The year was 2008. A youngster who was just out of his teens a year ago was seeking inspiration... whether to stick to his guns or follow the herd. And on the television was a young girl of 17 fighting it out to give India a medal in the then ongoing Olympics. She had defeated the reigning Asian Games Champion in the previous match. And this is the Quarter Finals.

A win here will ensure her a Bronze medal - the first India could win in the game of badminton. For a country which was starving for Olympic winners, that Olympics was a sweet memory as the first individual gold was won.

But the true star of the Games contingent is not the medal winners but this girl. She had displayed a range of game skills unheard of from an indian player at such level. Though she lost the match and could make it to the semi-finals, she had done more than enough to write herself into the sports folklore of India. The youngster got his inspiration thanks to that girl who displayed amazing athletic skills and game skills. She was leading in the third game of the match but lost due to inexperience. And he stood his own ground.

Her name is Saina

That girl is Saina Nehwal. The first Indian No. 1 in the ultra competitive 21st century badminton scene which is mostly dominated by the Chinese. She was later named the slayer of the Chinese domination. So, here is the film Saina, a biopic made on her, now a 31 year old woman, still playing, inspiring, settled in life, and a bit outshined in popularity by her younger colleagues. But the cult she helped create for women's badminton in India is unmatched.

Initially expected to star Shraddha Kapoor, this current Parineeti Chopra starrer is a story of a champion whose life story is devoid of the masala which is much needed for mainstream films. There are no tragedies. There are no controversies. No divorces and public spats of personal issues. People love to see the tragedies in the lives of other people. Only up and down graphs in the lives make great films like in the case of Sanju than in the life of an unfettered champion like Saina Nehwal. 

Champions are not born overnight. Cliche!

They are made. Another cliche!

Non-cliche

Saina Nehwal, daughter of Usha and Harvir Singh Nehwal, a  couple from Haryana settled in Hyderabad created history in 2015 when she became the first Indian woman and only the second Indian after Prakash Padukone to attain the world No.1 ranking in Badminton. But she was the World No. 2 in 2009 itself. What made her take so much of time (nearly 6 years) to break the final barrier to become the numero uno? Injuries. Self doubts. She's human after all, and needed to overcome all these human frailties. But still she's the slayer of Chinese domination in the game.

She's now married. Settled in life in traditional sense. Not much of badminton action happened lately courtesy Covid-19. Any sports enthusiast who follow the game, is pretty much aware of her achievements (or at least recall), fallout with coach Pullela Gopichand (it may even be a conspiracy theory) and why she owes it all to her parents and modest middle-class upbringing. But there's always more to the story than meets the eye.

Templates galore

Indian biographical dramas follow a set template. So much so that the filmmakers won't hesitate to make Sachin hit a six with the final ball of 2011 World Cup final to win it for the country after 28 years. Can't believe? Do you know Gita Poghat had won the Commonwealth Games gold with no contest of a final? Sports have all the records ready and available to all. But our filmmakers took so much liberty to create drama and made Gita Poghat to win a tight match within the last couple of seconds. In Dangal. Hmm.

What we get most of the times is a hagiography or whitewashing.  The plot barely scratches the surface or goes beyond the obvious. Struggles, road to glory, downfall and resurrection and even a 3rd standard kid can narrate such a story. Since sportspersons are revered in the country, not many dare to address the skeletons in the closet.

Direction

Amole Gupte - the director didn't dare to touch upon Sain's rivalry and ego issues with P. V. Sindhu. He just highlighted the known ups and downs of Saina's life and played it safe. But he should be commended for ensuring his film isn't patronising or jingoistic.

Mismatch

Despite her best efforts, Parineeti Chopra failed to replicate Saina's game achievements her athletic agility despite hundreds of photos from her gym activities on the internet. In dramatic scenes she's good. But it can be done by any competent actor. Especially, after watching the breathtaking display of the talented 10-year-old Mumbai shuttler Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye who played young Saina displaying her skills on court. Not only does she resemble the real Saina Nehwal, her mastery of the game gave the film an edge when she appeared on the screen. She helped the filmmaker to capture the raw energy of an athlete and stoic ambition of Saina that we're all wanting to be visualised or recreated.

The crew

Coming to technicalities, the music is also unfortunately templatish. The music directors too need tragedies and fallacies in characters and morals to get inspiragion. Of course we're living in a world where the best are despised and mediocrity is glorified. Can't believe? What will you choose... An M. S. Subbulakshmi song or a 15 second video of a girl exposing and imitating a star heroine in an Insta video. Your answer determines who you're. The cinematography is good. The editing is terrific we must say. A not so dramatic film is still watchable is thanks to some sharp editing work. The production design is Bollywoodish. And the production values are good.

Finally

Saina is an entertaining sports biopic made by Bollywood in a generally Bollywoodish style. But it's still good for what it is. And the life of Saina is inspiring. And that a film is made on a commercial scale on her life is enough of proof that she's a true heroine. Recommended.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by: GitacharYa

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