Film Review: Saina

Film Review: Saina

Starring: Parineeti Chopra, Manav Kaul, Meghna Malik, Eshan Naqvi and Subhrajyoti Barat

Director: Amole Gupte

Sporting flicks have a certain flair in-built and when they are autobiographical in nature, there is an added hook for the audience. This new Amazon Prime release has both of those factors going for it as a biopic of India’s best-known female badminton player and Olympic medalist Saina Nehwal.

Saina (Chopra) has a passion and raw talent for badminton from childhoos, which it seems she imbibed from her talented district-level champion mother Usha Rani Nehwal (Malik). Between bouts of teenage tantrums and angst, Saina is largely an obedient teenager who religiously follows the tough regime set by her mother – who is her defacto coach until she enrolls in an academy to hone her raw skills.

It is only when she starts competing with some of the country’s most talented young players and begins training under hard taskmaster Rajan Sir (Kaul) as her coach that Saina’s game takes on a form capable to compete on any world stage. She not only loses the extra pounds but goes on to dazzle on the world stage and win big – not just medals and trophies but also the lucrative advertising deals that make the cash flow.

Will Saina’s ambitions get dwarfed by the dazzle of success and fame or will be stay the course to go to become India’s first female World Number One badminton champion?

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While the answer to that question is not really an unknown quotient, the film manages to inject much excitement around the outcome. A film centred around a living person, who is still very active in the sporting world, is not an easy task but the filmmakers manage to pull off the delicate balance between a commentary and sympathetic re-telling of an inspiring life story.

Chopra does justice to the role by trying to embody the character of the real-life Saina and most of the supporting cast is equally adept, especially Kaul as the tough-talking no-nonsense Rajan Sir.

There are moments in the film that will make your eyes well up with the emotion of the sheer scale of what this young girl has achieved in a short span of time, making not just her family but a whole nation proud and paving the way for scores of other young Indian girls to feel confident to follow in her footsteps. There is also a crucial, though subtle, comment on how cricket tends to overshadow many other sports in India.

But beyond any of that critique and messaging, this is at heart a moving and uplifting story about learning to deal with not only life’s successes but also its failures.

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