‘SAINA’ | 26 March, 2021

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T-Series Films, Amole Gupte Cinema and Front Foot Pictures’ Saina is a biopic of the world’s champion badminton player from India, Saina Nehwal. It traces the journey of Saina (Parineeti Chopra) right from childhood to her growth as the world champion and India’s icon. It talks about how Saina got interested in the sport as a child (Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye), how she honed her skills, how her parents (Meghna Malik, Shubhrajyoti Barat) and elder sister supported her in her journey, who were her encouraging friends, why she fell in love with one friend, Kashyap (Eshan Naqvi), how her coach, Rajan (Manav Kaul), trained her, how she had a fallout with him, etc.

Amole Gupte has penned a story, borrowing from the real-life story of the champ. While there are inspirational moments, the story does not have consistency in the sense that the viewers do not feel inspired throughout the drama. As Amole Gupte’s story and screenplay unfold, the audience often gets the feeling that Saina’s story is neither universally appealing nor emotional enough nor even inspirational enough to devote an entire feature-length film to her. A humane story of an iconic hero ought to move the audiences emotionally, and inspire them to emulate the hero but this story does not do so. The audience watches her story unfold on the screen in quite a detached manner without really rooting for her. Gupte’s screenplay does not completely involve the viewers to become a part of Saina’s journey. At times, Saina looks too confident and arrogant, thereby further losing the audience’s sympathy. The rise of Saina and her various victories don’t give the audiences the high they should have been given. Conversely, her defeats never really make the audience feel bad for her. The tension-ridden tournaments don’t make the viewers bite their nails. Also, the behaviour of coach Rajan during his various interactions with Saina, looks a bit weird. The viewers expect him to be thrilled when she wins tournaments but his joy seems superficial. Why? Agreed, he is very mature and is scared that success might go to Saina’s head but was it necessary to show Rajan’s fears when it was Saina’s moment? All these points may have been borrowed from Saina’s real life but the viewers of Hindi cinema often like to watch a biopic in a template format. This screenplay does not quite follow the template and that is a big minus point, for the audience. Dialogues, written by Amole Gupte and Amitosh Nagpal, lack the punch needed in a drama like this.

Parineeti Chopra emulates the nuances of Saina Nehwal beautifully and otherwise also delivers a wonderful performance in the title role. Manav Kaul does well but his character does not win him too many fans in spite of the fact that he is right. Eshan Naqvi is endearing as Kashyap. Meghna Malik does not impress much as Saina’s mother, Usha Rani Nehwal. She acts like an excited teenager rather than an excited yet scared and concerned mother and that takes away from the emotional appeal of the scenes. Shubhrajyoti Barat is ordinary as Saina’s father. Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye is splendid as young Saina. Dimple Kalshan is average as Saina’s elder sister, Abu Nehwal. Rohan Apte (as Saina’s friend Rohan) and Sharman Dey (as Saina’s friend, Damodar) provide very good support. Ankur Vikal has his moments as coach Jeevan Kumar. Ranjith Reddy (as coach Meru), Ravi Gopal Danturty (as coach Nani Prasad), Rushikesh Lotlikar (as little Kashyap), Sarvesh Yadav (as little Rohan), Adil Majoo (as little Damodar), Taiyaba Mansuri (as little Abu Nehwal), Jaspreet Kaur Bhatoye (as the teenaged Abu Nehwal), Shashikant Mehta (as Mutthu), Debaloy Dey (as the photo shoot director), Amit Ashar (as the photo shoot photographer), Deepkar S. Parkar (as coach Rana), Mukesh Agrohari (as the rude instructor), and the others lend fair support.

Amole Gupte’s direction is so-so. He has not been able to make an emotional and inspirational human drama despite talking about a national icon. Amaal Malik’s music is average. The songs should’ve been far more catchy and inspirational. Lyrics (Manoj Muntashir and Kunaal Verma) are good. Vijay Ganguly’s song picturisations are routine. Amaal Malik’s background music ought to have been more inspiring and impactful. Piyush Shah does a fine job of the cinematography. Amin Khatib’s action and stunt scenes are alright. Production designing (by Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty) is good. Deepa Bhatia’s editing is very sharp.

On the whole, Saina is too unexciting to prove victorious on the box-office field. It neither moves the viewers emotionally nor inspires them much. It will, therefore, fail to make a mark at the ticket windows.

Released on 26-3-’21 at Inox (daily 5 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru AA Films. Publicity: below the mark. Opening: poor. …….Also released all over. Opening was weak everywhere.