Abhishek Bannerjee, Supriya Pathak and Priyanshu Painyuli leave an impressive mark
Directed by Akarsh Khurana, Rashmi Rocket stars Taapsee Pannu in the lead, supported by a host of talented actors like Supriya Pathak, Abhishek Banerjee, Priyanshu Painyuli, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Varun Badola and Shweta Tripathi among others. The story revolves around Rashmi Veera (Taapsee) from Bhuj, who’s a gifted sprinter. On being egged by Captain Gagan (Priyanshu Painyuli) and her mother (Supriya Pathak) she takes up running professionally and trains hard to become a national athlete. But before she could sink in and bask in the glory of her big win, she’s taken for a gender test which turns her life upside down. Eeshit (Abhishek Banerjee) – a lawyer takes up her case and challenges the ban imposed on her by the Indian Athletics’ Association. Will she be able to win the good fight for all the other female athletes who had been wronged by the unfair practice of gender testing for women in sports?
Rashmi Rocket begins with a disclaimer which informs that it is inspired from real life incidents and that cinematic liberties have been taken by the makers to dramatize the tale while adapting it for the screens. It is evident that the movie relies heavily on real athlete Dutee Chand’s case (2014), in which she’d challenged the ban on her after failing the gender test. Director Akarsh Khurana comes straight to the point in the first 15 minutes itself. However, there’s too much dependency on an uninspiring flashback sequence that makes up for the majority of the first half, to establish Rashmi’s back story. The film struggles to keep you hooked in the initial half with the introduction of Rashmi, her battling the ghost of the tragic 2001 Gujarat earthquake in which she loses her father, a love story on the side involving an army officer because, in the words of Rashmi, “Bachpan se hi shaukh tha mujhe army wala boyfriend banana ka”, and of course, the training montages without which any sports film would be incomplete.
One hour into the film and you get the impression of watching a sports drama, which does away with the cliched story of an underdog (for a change). The movie picks up pace and this impression changes drastically in the second half with the entry of Abhishek Banerjee as Eeshmit – the lawyer. Majority of the second half is a courtroom drama in which Abhishek takes the centre stage and slays it, one scene at a time. The actor, who seems to be having a blast, has worked hard in getting the quirks, body language and eccentricities of his character right and it shows. Whether it’s his fidgeting fingers, sly smirks, habit of taking notes or a dramatized opening statement which may remind you of Sunny Deol in Damini – Banerjee manages to impress with ease. At one point, Supriya Pilgaonkar who plays the judge, asks him if he watches too many Hindi films as, “Reality mein courtroom mein itna drama nahin hota”.
Taapsee effortlessly manages to delve into the skin of her character and makes you root for her. The determination and hard work she has put in getting an athletic body for the part will definitely leave you impressed, particularly in the close-up shots while she’s running on the tracks. That she’s a fine actress has been well established beyond doubts with her repertoire of films and the kind of issues each of those have brought to light. Rashmi Rocket seems to be another addition to the list, only this time, questioning the unfair and archaic practice of gender testing on women in sports. Taapsee shines in the scenes during and following her medical test in the film. She manages to convey the sense of confusion, rage and helplessness that Rashmi goes through, particularly in the emotional moments with conviction. When she tells Gagan (Painyuli), “Kuch toot sa gaya hai andar”, you know exactly what she’s talking about as she struggles with her entire identity and existence being questioned by those around her. Her transformation into a Ghani Cool Chhori in the first half for a dance number and painfully distracting tanned skin colour seem needless and could’ve been done away with.
The supporting cast does a remarkable job in the little scope that the script offered. Most notably Priyanshu Painyuli, whom you might remember as Robin from Amazon Prime original Mirzapur season 2, is understated yet terrific as the army officer Gagan. There are instances when you feel he’s about to say his popular line from Mirzapur 2 – “Yeh bhi theek hai…” Supriya Pathak once again plays the strong matriarch of the family, but this time in stark contrast to her Dhankor in Ram Leela. The mother-daughter moments between her and Taapsee will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It came as a pleasant surprise to see Varun Badola back in action on screen after quite a long time. It’s a pity that he didn’t have enough material to work with. Mantra does justice to his part as the coach and Supriya Pilgaonkar as the slightly strict judge is also well cast.
Amit Trivedi’s music, sadly, fails to impress. Whether it is Rann Ma Kutchh or Zidd or Ghani Cool Chori – none of the songs manage to stay with you. The background score too doesn’t leave a mark and fails to uplift some of the otherwise rousing scenes. The editing could have been crispier, especially in the first half. The screenplay by Aniruddha Guha and additional dialogues by Kanika Dhillon are not quite hard-hitting but they do have some spark here and there. As for Khurana’s direction, he seems to be confused in whether he envisioned Rashmi Rocket as a sports film or a courtroom drama and that is evident in the execution.
In the beginning of the film, as Rashmi gets off her motorcycle in a scene, some of her village folks question, “Chhora hai, ya chhori?” and by the time the movie ends, another person from her village takes pride in referring to her as, “Mhaare gaaon ki chhori hai”. Even though the screenplay and direction falters at places, Rashmi Rocket deserves to be watched for the pertinent questions it raises and the issues it brings to light, particularly with regards to the hardships faced by female athletes.