Sukumari The Indian Cricketer, Sukumari Cricketer, Shabaash Mithu review, Sukumari in Real Life, Who is Sukumari Marwaha
Sports biopics usually have a set template. You have a protagonist who is smart and talented from a young age. Someone saw the spark and nurtured this talent for several years. The protagonist faced many obstacles in her journey in the form of rivalry, injury and opposition from her family, but in the end she was able to shine and prove her worth at the end of the film. Srijit Mukherji’s latest Shabaash Mithu’ follows the template on the tee. But does it leave a lasting, defining impression? Only in parts.
Shabaash Mithu, based on the life of former Indian women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj, spans over 162 minutes and depicts her early life, her introduction to cricket, her influences in life and her rise to fame. The story is familiar – mainly because Raj is a famous sport in the country and also because the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup is still fresh in the memory. A tournament where Raj captained the Indian team and played very well, which made the nation sit up and take notice of the Indian women’s cricket team.
The moments that stand out in ‘Shabaash Mithu’
When the story is all too familiar, the challenges multiply for a storyteller. Written by Priya Aven, the film’s screenplay thrills in moments with the beginning being the most promising and poignant. It has Pannu as Raj standing in front of a few seated men, presumably officials of the cricket board, asking for a few basic rights for her and her team. The pompous official (Bajendra Kala) promptly calls a peon over to the conference room and asks her to name a few women cricketers as she gushes about the sport. The scene is abruptly cut short and the narrative then goes back in time to show how a young Mithali (played by Inayat Verma) was introduced to the game of cricket by her feisty, tom-boyish friend Noor. The two were Sachin and Kambli to each other and played cricket in a secret hideout every day after their Bharatnatyam practice. During one such game, cricket coach Sampath (Vijay Raaz) spots the two and their talent, convinces Raj’s family and brings them under his tutelage.
The scenes of the two young girls, dressed in skirts and with flower adorning their braids, playing gleefully a game that mostly is played by young boys in gullies across the country are the most heartening scenes of the film. Beautifully written and well performed, they put an instant smile on one’s face.
The other scene that stands out is the one where the Indian women’s cricket team goes to appeal for basic amenities and jerseys of their names in front of a few officials at CAI (basically BCCI) and after being rebuked, they introduce themselves one by one by taking off the jerseys which do not have their name tags. This is a defining moment in the film and one that will stay with you for a long time.
Performance of ‘Shabaash Mithu’
Raj and his team fought for the respect of not only the cricket board but also the entire country. Certain scenes highlight how we perceive women cricketers vis-a-vis their male counterparts and how women are changing that to a great extent with their extraordinary performance in the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup.
While the film has its harrowing moments, overall it just doesn’t add up. Maybe because the film’s lead actress Taapsee Pannu overexposed herself by playing sports characters. This is Pannu’s third sports film. He’s played a hockey player and an athlete before – both are character arcs, so there’s a sense of Deja Vu in this film to see Pannu pulling the same character through the same life trials.
Also present is Momtaz Sorcar, who plays a character based on cricketer Jhulan Goswami. Sorcar usually has a very strong screen presence, but here her role is limited. Still, she managed to make an impression. Another actress who delivers is Shilpi Marwaha who is Taapsee’s competitor and senior in the team. Marwaha is missing in her performance as Sukumari Marwa and her scenes with Taapsee are odd.
I saw Major ‘Chak De! Indian hangover in a movie. The film remains perhaps one of the best sports films in India and some scenes in ‘Shabaash Mithu’ seem heavily inspired by Shimit Amin’s film, especially the dressing room scene where Taapsee gives a pep talk to her teammates. The scene is supposed to give the audience goosebumps or make them emotional, but it falls flat due to the lack of writing.
What does not work in ‘Shabaash Mithu’
When the template is already set, it is ultimately upon the makers how to make the predictable story engaging. One can dramatise it, or write a screenplay that provides impressive catchy dialogues or add plot points to make a story compelling, but ‘Shabaash Mithu’ remains a middling affair throughout.
Considering this is the first film on women’s cricket and its stars, ‘Shabaash Mithu’ could have been a defining film and done wonders. It could have evoked a sense of curiosity among sports enthusiasts to look up and read more about the women cricketers of the country. Instead, the film leaves a middling effect on viewers, where the story, the performances and the climax of the film- all seem too predictable. It’s a well-intentioned film that tells an important story – but don’t expect the adrenaline rush that films of this genre usually give.
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