Rashmi Rocket Review: The Taapsee Pannu-starrer is bumpy but eventually takes flight
Director : Akarsh Khurana
Genre : Drama
Our rating :
Based on the archaic practice of gender-testing that has cut-short the careers of international women athletes across the world, 'Rashmi Rocket' starring Taapsee Pannu, Priyanshu Painyuli, Abhishek Banerjee and Supriya Pathak in lead roles, is a well-intentioned narrative that sets off to a flying finish, despite a few occasional thuds.
Set amidst the white sands of Kutch, tourist guide Rashmi Vira (Pannu) is accorded a second chance at realizing her dream of becoming a celebrated sprinter. With a decent push from her fierce matriarch Bhanuben (Pathak) and an extremely supportive partner Major Gagan Thakur (an unpatronising, understated Painyuli), Rashmi enrolls at the training academy in Pune and is soon seen contesting at state-level and national-level championships, acquiring honor and glory for her unmatched speed and talent. But her rise nosedives when she is asked to undergo a gender test, against her consent. The presence of higher testosterone levels in her blood leads to her identity and gender being doubted upon, leading to an indefinite ban from sports.
Based on real-life incidents of similar nature that happened with athletes Santhi Soundarajan and Dutee Chand, the story, penned by Nanda Periyasamy with screenplay and dialogues credited to director Akarsh Khurana, Aniruddha Guha, Kanika Dhillon and Lisha Bajaj, raises pertinent questions about a regressive practice that further disables a society to rise above the exisiting gender disparity. But a shift in the tonality threatens the film's viewing prospects when a compelling sports-flick suddenly turns into a dangerously shrill courtroom drama. Banerjee, who steps in as Rashmi's defense lawyer Eeshit, makes for an engaging act even though his performance treads the trope between being effective to becoming over-the-top. Ironically, he is chided by the judge at the court who tells him that he seems to consume a lot of movies, given his dramatic presentation of arguments. Also, the makers seem unsure about the way Rashmi is to be portrayed. For a character that wears track pants and racer tees, a Garba dance number that sees her donning a ghagra choli and her wedding which sees her wearing a saree seems to come off as a glaring contradiction. Even worse is when the makers choose to indicate signs of masculine behavior in Rashmi through her traits of riding huge bikes, chugging whiskey and trash-talking like a sailor. Aren't you axing your own argument that way?
Despite these major setbacks, 'Rashmi Rocket' remains thankfully watchable, due to arresting performances by its actors. Pannu, although has worked tremendously on acquiring the physique and intricacies of an athlete, is effective as the temperamental yet innocent Rashmi. Though I may want to add, that she is in dire need of upping her range further before her characters start seeming identical. Painyuli's Major Gagan Thakur could've been a more fleshed out character but the actor manages to make an impression, given his limited presence. Banerjee makes a meal out of Eeshit and a key scene involving a brawl between him and a journalist would've elicited whistles in a cinema-hall. Pathak's Bhanuben could well pass off as the good cousin sister of Dhankor Ba from 'Goliyon Ki Raas Leela: Ram Leela'. Supriya Pilgaonkar, playing the judge makes for a delightful appearance. Her banter with Eeshit does make for a humble mercy.
'Rashmi Rocket' isn't perfect but the intention on the part of the makers to bring a lesser-discussed subject to the forefront remains unquestionable.