Gender discrimination in sports is real
he film was released on the July 15. It has recently been uploaded on Netflix. It chronicles the life of former Test and ODI captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, Mithali Raj, essayed by Taapsee Pannu. The film has been directed by Srijit Mukherji and produced by Viacom 18 studios.
The film starts off with a representative of the Cricket Association of India questioning his peon about whether he can name even one female cricketer. When he is unable to do so, the man gives Mithali, the captain of the women’s cricket team, a meaningful look and asks her if she still harbours any doubts about their identity. The film then goes into flashback mode and we see a six or seven-year-old Mithali playing cricket with a friend when she is spotted by Sampath (Vijay Raaz) who trains young people at his cricket academy. He see the talent in her and asks her parents to enroll her at the academy. Considering cricket has been referred to as a “gentleman’s game,” her parents are taken aback that the coach has picked their daughter rather than a son.
Mithali and her friend (under a false pretext) start training at the academy and are picked up and dropped off by Mithali’s father every day. Years roll by and the two grow up. One day, Mithali’s friend who introduced her to cricket and was her rock throughout does not arrive for practice. Mithali discovers that she is getting married. In a letter, she encourages Mithali and urges her to pursue her dreams and aspirations of becoming a first class cricketer and playing for India. Although extremely upset at this unexpected turn of events, Mithu, as her friend calls her, is eventually selected and moves to the Women’s Cricket Board academy.
The director manages to highlight how the game of cricket is dominated by men and very few people take women’s cricket seriously. During her stint at the academy, we are introduced to the remaining members of the cricket team who all come from impoverished families and have had to work very hard to reach the coveted position. They give Mithu a hard time at first but gradually grow to like and admire her for her talent and her ability to bring out the team spirit in them. After a successful tour of England, Mithu is selected captain, much to the dismay and disappointment of the former captain who despises how quickly she has become so popular with her team mates.
When the women’s cricket team is at the airport, leaving for England, nobody recognises them. Just then, the men’s cricket team walk in to the sound of loud applause and cheers. In another scene, a lady in the crowd requests Raj to take a picture of her with her favourite male cricketer.
The film follows Mithu’s journey to the World Cup where they manage to reach the finals but are defeated by England. Although extremely disappointed, she receives tremendous acclaim for bringing women’s cricket team to the fore and finally attaining the recognition and acknowledgement she has been striving for throughout her career.
The story rests on a solid premise but the portrayal does not always hold the viewer’s attention. Some scenes stand out like when the women’s cricket team is at the airport leaving for England and nobody recognises them. Just then, the men’s cricket team walk in to the sound of loud applause and cheers. In another scene a lady in the crowd requests Taapsee to take a picture of her with her favourite male cricketer. The message is clear. It is only after Taapsee takes the women’s cricket team to the World Cup finals that government officials and cricket associations begin to take notice. Previously, the film shows the state of the women’s cricket board and how nobody is willing to sponsor or fund them which is why very few matches are scheduled throughout the year. Taapsee is scared that this will affect their fitness levels. After she is nominated captain, she comes up with the idea of a partnership with the Cricket Association of India (CAI). The proposal is finally approved but the sub-standard material sent by them testify to their non-seriousness.
The film entertains sporadically but fails to leave a mark in its entirety. The supporting cast is quite strong especially the members of the women’s cricket team. Taapsee fails to leave a deserved impact and does not appear to be in form. Most viewers will likely fail to connect with her as she comes across as rather lacklustre, even in some of the scenes meant to evoke strong emotions. In a sports drama, the viewers should be rooting for the underdog. They should leave the cinema hall feeling inspired and motivated. This film, however, fails to ignite that spark. The response has understandably been lukewarm.
Taapsee, despite being a good actress, fails to get into the skin of the character. This is one of her less memorable roles and films. The cinematography is good and the director makes a sincere effort to spread awareness about an issue that has not been highlighted before. The last scene, where a young girl asks Mithu to autograph her bat, is inspiring. The film holds promise but fails in the end to deliver.
All in all, it can be viewed once to while away time on a boring weekend afternoon or to gain some understanding about its subject.
The writer is an educationist. She be reached at gaiteearahotmail.com.