Director: Amole Gupte
Writers: Amole Gupte, Amitosh Nagpal
Editor: Deepa Bhatia
Cinematography: Piyush Shah
Forged: Parineeti Chopra, Meghna Malik, Manav Kaul, Eeshan Naqvi, Subhrajyoti Barat
The Bollywood sports activities film has turn into a veritable cottage business. Yearly, we get a handful of movies that observe a regular 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 manner, 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. Assume Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Dangal, Soorma, Panga, Gold, Saand ki Aankh. The listing goes on.
Saina doesn’t deviate from the system. The movie is predicated on one among our greats – badminton champion Saina Nehwal, who has been a world number one participant and gained over 24 particular person titles, together with an Olympic bronze medal. It is a star athlete who put Indian badminton on the worldwide map and made the game aspirational. Her story is one among striving, failure and blazing success.
Author-director Amole Gupte hits every of the standard sports activities movie beats but additionally bungs in girl empowerment. The movie begins with a voiceover by 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 advised in flashbacks, beginning along with her mom Usha taking part in a sport of badminton whereas she’s pregnant with Saina. A lot of Saina’s hearth 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 house, she berates Saina for dropping the gold whereas the kid appears to be like on sullenly. There may be 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 stage of strain do to a toddler? Was there rigidity between the sisters? Or the dad and mom because the mom propelled her daughter to world domination? Did Saina, who awakened at three am day-after-day to be at coaching at 5, ever desire a time without work?
The movie doesn’t enterprise into these prickly areas. As an alternative, Amole chooses to give attention to tidy highs and lows. The primary half, dedicated to Saina’s ascent, options coaching montages and matches in succession. The voiceover explains Saina’s considering via a sport and the way she outsmarts her opponent however we now have little sense of her as a human being off the courtroom. The scenes turn into repetitive and the pacing, sluggish. Fortunately, the drama picks up within the second half when Saina’s profession falters and he or she goes up towards her coach and mentor Rajan, modeled on Pullela Gopichand. This relationship throws up battle and emotion. And Manav Kaul does a high-quality job because the scientific coach who’s hellbent on having his protégés succeed.
Saina alternates between thrilling match sequences and uninteresting stretches that appear tacked collectively like a highlights reel of the athlete’s life. One of many issues is that the opposite characters aren’t written sharply sufficient. Meghna Malik because the mom is bewilderingly loud however at the very least she infuses power into the narrative. Saina’s love curiosity, Kashyap, modeled on her husband Parupalli Kashyap, doesn’t turn into 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 aside from cheering in entrance of the tv display, and in a single scene, peeling potatoes to allow them to have parathas.
The load of this movie after all rests on the shoulders of Parineeti Chopra. Just like the movie, she is inconsistent. In some scenes, the physique language and inherent toughness appear performative. In others, her eyes discover the fireplace and anguish of Saina’s journey. I don’t know sufficient about badminton to touch upon her approach however editor Deepa Bhatia cleverly splices via the match sequences in order that on courtroom, Parineeti doesn’t appear 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 carrying the identical garments. Which encapsulates the issue with too many biopics. Finally, 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’ll be able to watch the movie at a theatre close to you. Don’t overlook to put on a masks.