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Review Hindi

Shabaash Mithu review: A brilliantly performed sports drama that could have been more nuanced

Release Date: 15 Jul 2022 / Rated: U / 02hr 36min

Cinestaan Rating

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Ankita Kanabar

The film traces the journey of cricketer Mithali Raj and highlights the sad state of affairs in women’s cricket.

In the opening scene of Shabaash Mithu, the chairperson of the CAI — a stand-in for the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] in the film — tells a peon to recite the names of five women cricketers and he can’t.

We are then shown the childhood of Mithali Raj (Tapsee Pannu), a trained Bharatanatyam dancer who plays cricket with her friend Noorie (Kasturi Jagnam). She uses the techniques of the dance form while batting and aces it. The little Mithali (Inayat Verma) refers to herself and Noorie as Sachin and Kambli. An ex-cricketer-turned-coach Sampath (Vijay Raaz) happens to spot the girls one day and takes them under his wing.

The film then depicts Raj’s ascent to captaincy of the women’s cricket team and the 2017 World Cup final where India lost to England by a mere nine runs.

But more than the protagonist’s sporting prowess and her inspiring journey – the film tackles a larger issue. You’re constantly told about the sad state of affairs in women’s cricket such as the team's lack of basic necessities.

There’s a scene in the film where Raj, now the captain of the women’s cricket team, is unrecognized at the airport and a fellow traveller asks her to click a picture of them with a male cricketer instead. It’s shown that women cricketers face constant sexism until of course the day when they lose the World Cup but win the hearts of the nation.

The film also shows Mithali’s rage and endeavour to bring about change, which is largely successful. While Shabaash Mithu makes a point, what it lacks is depth. The first half is absolutely crisp since it focuses on tracing Raj’s journey and determination. But the second half strives to prove a point which makes it slow, slightly bland and totally lacking in nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat elements despite there being several cricket sequences towards the end.

You hear the song ‘Hindustan Meri Jaan’ towards the climax which means the film wants us to instil patriotism. But one was led to believe that the film was more about women seeking recognition in a male-dominated sport.

For instance, Pannu says in a long monologue, ‘Sabse bura yeh hoga ke agar yahan khelne ke baad bhi koi humein na pehchaane.’ The accompanying music by Amit Trivedi is beautiful though. 

The film attempts to hit a six but it gets caught out and this is regrettable because Shabaash Mithu could have been great with a little more detailing and engaging content. Raj, as a character, isn’t quite expressive hence in parts the film feels sort of blank and stretched. We wish director Srijit Mukherji had a more nuanced and crisp narrative.

What the film does well, though, is highlight the heroism and dedication of Raj and her spirit in the face of adversity. I must also admit that some moments will leave you teary-eyed, but it’s not the moment when the team loses the World Cup.

The highlight of Shabaash Mithu is its performances — starting with child actors Verma and Jagnam, who are the best part of the film and a major reason why you should watch it.

Raaz as coach Sampath delivers another fine performance. Pannu is at ease on the pitch and as she subtly gets into the emotional core of Raj. She’s understated and yet impactful in most parts.

Watch Shabaash Mithu for its performances and its portrayal of Raj’s efforts to change the scenario of women’s cricket in India.


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