wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)
A sobering watch about cricket, especially for a nation that pulsates with every ball the men play the sport. It engages, entertains and makes you wonder, “why did we take so long, if at all, to be engaged and entertained by Indian women’s cricket?”Read more
When I first heard of the film, I wondered if Mithali Raj’s life had enough ‘struggle’ to make for a good sports film? I was pleasantly surprised to see the film point out the lack of struggle straight-up and make the movie larger than Raj’s career as a cricketer. She repeats through the film that she’d rather her team win than be happy that she scored. It is only apt that the film about her life is more about the episodes in Indian women’s cricket rather than her life story.
For a person who eye-rolled at the film’s 2.5+-hour length and who had to watch the first 40 minutes of the movie in a weird aspect ratio, I was surprised I hadn’t even realised that it was interval o’clock.
And you hit the irony right there. Would the story have made it to screen if it were marketed as the life of Indian women’s cricket and titled so? Only because it is about a player we know now, would there have been takers and now viewers. Thankfully, the makers picked the pivotal role she played in bringing the plight of women’s sports under the spotlight.
And politically, you can tell that the film is walking on a tightrope. The Indian cricketing board’s name has been altered in the film, but it has been thanked in the credits. The players’ frustration seems to have been presented in a measured fashion. Indeed, the lady cricketers must have gone through much more than that shown to us.
Sure, some of this frustration seems sugar-coated because of the episodic manner in which events are placed one after the other, lacking any flow. Especially the second half suffers from a jerky screenplay. This is in complete contrast with a smooth and thoroughly enjoyable first half which covers Mithali Raj’s childhood in much detail.
While I quite liked the first half, it could also be this disproportionate focus on her childhood that makes the film seem unevenly paced. In fact, for a person who eye-rolled at the film’s 2.5+-hour length and who had to watch the first 40 minutes of the movie in a really weird aspect ratio because of a technical glitch, I was surprised I hadn’t even realised that it was interval o’clock. Disappointingly, though so much has happened in Raj’s life after she made it to the Indian team, the second half feels slow and under-written.
Along similar lines, the child artist playing Mithali Raj has much more spunk than Taapsee Pannu. Pannu seems unusually out of sorts, though she is one of the best women actors to play a sports person. It could also be because Mithali Raj’s character doesn’t overshadow others, especially considering this is a biopic. The writing allows the other characters to shine, whether it is Raj’s friend Noorie in the first half or her teammates in the second half. Fortunately, the rest of the supporting cast does a decent enough job of making us believe in the cricketers’ life stories. They add a zing to some witty dialogue.
Of course, the field is set against women in society. Women in a job that is typically treated as a man’s job have it bad. It won’t be surprising if it is even worse for women in a “gentlemen’s game”. Shabhaash Mithu does a decent job of inspiring women to keep at it against all odds. This is why it seems okay to ignore Taapsee Pannu as a 15-year-old (No, two plaits do not do the job!).
Especially the second half suffers from a jerky screenplay.
Along with the big-picture focus, little things make the film a pleasure to watch. That it is a sports film without a training montage is a win. It also chooses subtlety over the other tropes. This one could have gone ballistic with jingoism, but it picks its own song instead of the usual heart-thumping national anthem. When it is time to deliver the big speech, it gives Mithali Raj a crisp monologue that seems like something that happens in real life.
Sure, it is not the best sports film around. But it does some things differently, and they work. The one I enjoyed the most—through a song playing in the background, we are told to change our point of view, to observe women rather than stare at them.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...The film rests on Taapsee’s able shoulders, and she has given her all to the cause. Her cricketing stance, her poise, and her shot selection look natural. And she makes you feel like it’s Mithali’s inner struggles you’re watching when she breaks down. It’s a straight-from-the-heart performance, and she should be lauded for her sincerity and commitment.... full review
Thumbs up, by Sachin Mehrotra, Hindustan Times : ...But for all its harshness, it's a film that gave me a sense of journey. During the final moments of Shabaas Mithu, we see Mithali and her team overrun by a horde of young girls begging for their autographs, to the gentle anthem of Amit Trivedi’s Hindustan Meri Jaan. It’s manipulative and conventional but I was overcome by every beat of it. Athletes and achievers finally acknowledged. Finally seen.... full review
Thumbs up, by Anindita Mukherjee, india today : ...The film also had multiple instances where the difference in hype between the men’s cricket team and the women’s cricket team is honestly depicted. For instance, the women’s cricket team members were asked to move out of the airport queue due to heavy luggage, while members of the men’s cricket team had armed security around them and, of course, zero queue. Another taste of reality came in the form of no proper resources for women’s basic necessities. To even address nature’s call, women cricket team members had to find bushes, while things would be the opposite for the men.... full review
Thumbs up, by Mohar Basu, MiD DAY : ...For most women, this is a film whose beats you’ll know by heart. It’s our story in some way or the other. And yet, somehow Pannu and her girls keep this one engaging for us. Pannu captures the quiet spirit of Raj, which shines on screen. “Every time I am playing like this is my last game…” Just for that alone, the film wins... full review
Thumbs up, by Deepti Patwardhan, Rediff : ...Despite the glaring misses, two things keep the movie relevant: Taapsee Pannu and the sheer grit of the Mithali Raj story. Pannu captures the dualism of Mithali, of being a quiet leader. Mithali Raj was an articulate but largely unemotive captain, whose strength was always staying on an even keel, no matter what the odds or opponents, no matter with how inexperienced the team was.... full review
So-So, Bollywood Life : ...Mithali has had a privileged childhood where for the longest time, until she lost the 2017 World Cup match in England, her ‘Have Not’ list remained empty. Director Srijit Mukherji keeps that moment in his film. He also establishes Mithali’s bond with her coach Sampath sir (played brilliantly by Vijay Raaz) by having repeated closeups of the Rudraksha chain that proudly sits on her neck. But, even with all these endearing moments at his disposal, the director fails to group them all to give a memorable film for the ages. The saddest part is that Mithali’s life is no less than a filmy story itself but when it actually comes out as a film, it makes you realise that something’s missing at every step of the way. Add to it the untimely songs running in the background and you get the perfect recipe for ruining a heroic story in an attempt to make it look more commercially appealing.... full review
So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...Tik ke dikha," Mithali's fellow cricketer tells her in an intimidating tone and lunges deadly bouncers and wides at her during the net practice. In a similar way, Srijit Mukerji also bowls in his own style. Like Mithali, you hit some and miss others.... full review
So-So, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...Shabaash Mithu has nothing new to offer being a sports biopic unless you are curious to know who Mithali Raj is. It’s strictly a one-time watch.... full review
So-So, by Punarvasu Pendse, fullhyd.com : ...Despite the sensible decision of opting to go with no background music during some of the more important moments, Shabaash Mithu's score leaves much to be desired. The music is loud, and not very memorable. Oh, and having to hear Kailash Kher, who was accused of being a serial harasser by multiple women in the industry, belt out a song about women's empowerment is the final straw.... full review
So-So, by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...when you have films about the triumph of the underdogs like ‘Chak De! India’ and ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ embedded in your collective consciousness, Mithali’s trials and tribulations seem almost pedestrian. The other supporting characters – barring Raaz and Mumtaz Sorcar who plays Noorie – are stock characters who don’t leave a lasting impression. Since it’s a real-life story of a young woman who smashed gender barriers and made Indian take notice of their team, you tend to expect a rousing climax. But the staged cricket matches like the finals of the World Cup are just a drag. This is one those film which may have worked wonderfully as book about a plucky batswoman but isn’t the perfect fodder for a gripping film. While we tip our hats to Mithali Raj’s brave and bold victories, her biopic doesn’t hit it out of the park when it comes to entertainment.... full review
So-So, by Shubham Kulkarni, koimoi : ...Srijit Mukherji is stuck between creating a to the point, serious sports biopic like Jhund, and also one that moves people emotionally. He ends up creating one that is completely neither of the two but something entirely confused. Like as a director he choses to open his movie with a scene that we are going to see in the second half, was that another teaser before the movie? He plugs in some scenes with a shayari in the background, or just a spoof like character making them look like those 30 second Melo dramatic advertisements.... full review
So-So, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...But all things considered, and owing in large measure to Taapsee Pannu's impressively steady performance, Shabaash Mithu is anything but a washout. The occasional false stroke does mar the overall impact but as a fond tribute to a cricketer whose feats transformed the fortunes of women in India's most popular sport, it puts just enough on the scoreboard not be dismissed as an innings without substance.... full review
So-So, by Sonil Dedhia, News18.com : ...However, despite its flaws, Shabaash Mithu is a worthy attempt. The film has sincerity and has been crafted with care. It deserves to be watched for the journey of a woman, who is responsible for the incredible rise of Indian Women’s cricket in the last two decades.... full review
So-So, by Himesh Mankad, Pinkvilla : ...All in all, Shabaash Mithu deserves to be watched to witness the journey of a woman, who is responsible for the incredible rise of Indian Women's cricket in the last two decades - Mithali Raj. Srijit Mukherji marries cricket with drama and emotions, though there are instances where he does fall in the troops of making a sport film, that bring in the deja-vu factor. Slight trimming would have made the film even more impactful. But nonetheless, by the end of it, the film makes you say, "Kya Baat Mithu". Worth A Watch.... full review
So-So, by Anuj Kumar, The Hindu : ...It becomes all the more apparent after the winsome flamboyance of young Inayat Verma and Kasturi Jagnam who play the young Mithali and her friend Noorie respectively, without any artifice. It was Noorie who showed Mithali how her margam lies not in Bharatanatyam but on a cricket pitch. Their little joys and camaraderie form the highlight of the film and are the reason to get you emotionally invested in the film.... full review
So-So, by Stutee Ghosh, The Quint : ...This sudden shift in the narrative tone is both inexplicable and unforgivable and Shabaash Mithu is poorer for it. It’s a pity because Mithali’s inspiring story and Taapsee’s solid performance deserved better.... full review
So-So, by Pooja Birala Jaiswal, The Week : ...Yet, Shabaash Mitthu is worth a watch, especially for its very gripping first half, most of which is pulled off by the child artist Inayat. She is adorable and so expressive that even if the entire film was centered around her as the subject, it would have made for a very enjoyable watch. The movie is far too stretchy and towards the end of the second half, it becomes a bit boring and tedious to stick around. No, not even the cricket coverage comes to the rescue. It goes so fast, that you want to take a shut-eye and come back once the match is over. Yet, the story of Raj remains inspiring as ever. If you must watch the film, watch it for her.... full review
So-So, by Rachana Dubey, Times of India : ...Those keenly waiting to finally watch a movie revolving around Mithali, one of women’s cricket’s most iconic contemporary players, will certainly be left asking for more. Maybe a rerun of one of her milestone matches will help.... full review
Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “right off the bat” without sounding pompous, and there’s no better context than a cricket film review. Maybe the moment has passed. I should have started with the phrase. But here goes anyway. Right off the bat, Shabaash Mithu descends into an unusually bland curation of a complex legacy. Right off the bat, the obviousness of this biopic is evident in the opening-credit collage of men playing cricket across the country. Right off the bat, the film understands precious little about its iconic protagonist – except that she’s a woman.... full review
Thumbs down, by Deepanjana Pal, Film Companion : ...Perhaps the worst part of Shabaash Mithu is that it makes women’s cricket seem boring and women cricketers uncouth. Mithali, with her zen calm, comes across as an exception in a sports scene peopled with spiteful, superficial and egoistical characters. Despite stretching across an interminable 162 minutes, there’s nothing in the film that gives you a sense of what makes these players special or why their demand that they be considered equal to their male counterparts is justified. The re-enactments of the matches have none of the tension that makes limited-overs cricket so entertaining. Instead, they become repetitive loops of scuttling balls and beaming players. Shabaash Mithu should have made us curious about women’s cricket and its champions. Instead, both the game and its players come across as forgettable.... full review
Thumbs down, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...The music is also disappointing as far as the audio is concerned. However, the situational values are kept intact. Sirsha Ray‘s camera work captures a couple of beautiful frames, but otherwise it’s a strictly average show. Speaking of editing, Shabaash Mithu has got as long of a runtime as a T20 match. I hope you’ll be able to sit in the stands until this long match is over.... full review
Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...With little to work with, Taapsee Pannu gives the sense of being adrift. Alternating between two facial expressions – stricken and determined – and saddled with being a feminist flagbearer, Pannu focuses on her athleticism. Pannu effectively reflects Mithali Raj’s batting prowess, but a different kind of biopic was needed to crawl into the cricketer’s mind.... full review
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