Saina is a winner, on and off the court. Read our review of this biopic on the Indian badminton champion, Saina Nehwal.
Movie Name: Saina
Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Manav Kaul, Meghna Malik, Shubhrajyoti Barat, Eshan Naqvi, Naishaa Bhatoye
Director: Amole Gupte
A small-town girl, whose parents literally sought loans to buy shuttlecocks to make their daughter play badminton, goes ahead to become the world number one champion – is literally the quintessential underdog rags to riches story, trapped with all the commercial elements to bring out emotions from the audience. As director Amole Gupte said in one of his interviews, “Saina Nehwal’s story is a thaali of emotions” and it’s difficult to go wrong when someone’s life has the graph of rise, fall and redemption.
The director manages to narrate the 30 years of Saina Nehwal in a short span of 2 hour and 14 minutes, encapsulating all the important events of her life, editing off the ones that didn’t warrant attention. More than revolving around the sport, it’s a humane story that speaks about the hardships faced and the sacrifices made in the journey of becoming world number one. One can relate to Saina, and cheer for her when she’s at her peak, and feel bad, when she reaches the bottom.
More than revolving around the sport, it’s a humane story that speaks about the hardships faced and the sacrifices made in the journey of becoming world number one.
An incident in the second half is a mirror image of how the social media environment has corrupted the world to a certain extent with people being overcritical and judgmental towards the life of a public figure and makes us realize how eager some are to write off the ones, who are at their peak. Though predictable, the premise is relatable, and backed up with a fast-paced narrative which keeps us hooked on the screen through the runtime. The essence of tale is not lost despite a restrained run time and full marks to the editors, Nidhi Raawat and Divyajot Singh, for being sharp on the edit table.
The background score by Amaal Mallik lifts the impact of training sequences and the dramatic points of the film, whereas the music too gels well with the narrative, without acting as a roadblock. The inspirational track, Main Parinda is used well all through at the right elevation moments. The VFX and Colour by Red Chillies is neat and there is a certain graphical template used in the second half to highlight the winning achievements of Saina Nehwal, and that comes across as quite a cool visual on the screen with use of bright golden colour template to highlight wins and the dark palette in the visuals for the losses.
The badminton matches also could have been shot better, as there is too much of focus on the hand movement with one-sided close-up camera set up, rather than giving it a holistic real time match approach with a spider camera.
Saina however is far off from being a flawless film. Despite a tight runtime, there’s a sequence in the second half, around the downfall of Saina, that seems stretched. Things however pick up in the finale with an exciting match between India and Spain. The intent of certain actions that Manav Kaul’s character takes in the second half isn’t well established, and one is confused taking his behavior towards the protagonist later in the film. There are too many close-up shots, and the actors are not able to hold onto the camera in close up for prolonged period. The prosthetics for Saina’s character could have been better, whereas a little subtle approach to the mannerisms of mother’s character was needed as compared to the slight loud treatment. While the emotional scenes and downfall is well shot, some might feel that the journey of her climbing up the ladder in the first half has been rather rushed through. The badminton matches also could have been shot better, as there is too much of focus on the hand movement with one-sided close-up camera set up, rather than giving it a holistic real time match approach with a spider camera. Gupte could have adapted the same camera angles, as they do in the live telecast of Badminton matches. Thankfully, the personal story is inspiring enough for one to ignore the sporting side of Saina.
Talking of performances, Parineeti Chopra does well to slip into the titular role. The efforts she has put in to prep for the character are visible, and despite being inconsistent with diction and dialogue delivery at a certain place, all in all, she has delivered an earnest performance. Manav Kaul as her badminton coach manages to leave a mark, though his character could have been written better. Eshan Naqvi and Meghna Malik do justice to their respective character of a friend turned husband and father, whereas Meghna Malik’s portrayal of mother, Usha Rani Nehwal, is on the louder side, particularly in the initial scenes of the film. The rest of ensemble do their part well.
Parineeti Chopra does well to slip into the titular role. The efforts she has put in to prep for the character are visible
Overall, it’s an ace for Amole Gupte with this biopic, however, it could have been a clean sweep had he taken care of some flaws by focusing a little better on the character build up and the badminton matches. The team does justice to the achievements and legacy of Saina Nehwal with well-intentioned biopic. Saina is a winner, on and off the court.
Your comment has been submitted to the moderation queue