Well done Mithu, in many ways, is the film you’ve come to expect. Another loud, unresolved sports biopic that lives up to its heavy-handed underdog message. But somewhere within its mainstream grammar, there is also a quieter, more intimate human drama. Read also: Shabaash Mithu Trailer: Taapsee Pannu is convincing as Mithali Raj
The Taapsee Pannu-starrer (I guess she is now contracted to lead any film that is also sports related) tells the story of recently retired Indian cricket captain Mithali Raj. His 23-year-long career has been filled with accolades and achievements, including breaking the world record for the highest individual Test score at the age of 19 and serving as the first Indian captain to lead the country to two World Cup finals. Well done Mithu tells his story, using his journey to highlight the hardship and uphill battle of women’s cricket in India.
The first, and arguably most memorable, phase of the film introduces us to the friendship of a young Mithali Raj (Inayat Verma) and a friend Noori (an amazing commanding musk Jagnam) with a firecracker. Noori introduces him to cricket, recognizes his talent, and enables him to become Murad’s MC Sher. The two begin playing the game in secret (of course, girls are not allowed to play with boys) until they are discovered by local cricket coach Sampath Sir (Vijay Raj always understands the assignment, bringing his token here desperately). are) intelligence).
The loud pitch of Srijit Mukherji’s film makes an announcement from the very first moments. Sreejith makes films that scream at you (Begum Jaan). Every emotional beat is said, restored and underlined. But during these early parts of the story, gory emotions shine through. I loved that Priya Aven’s script keeps cricket secondary and instead focuses on the poignant friendship between the two girls, for quite a stretch.
But, of course, long before we get our time jump. Seven years have passed and Mithali has now become Taapsee Pannu. (For the most part of this movie, Taapsee is believed to be 16, which you don’t buy into for a second. But it holds up if you forget that detail). Mithali is selected for the national camp, but her celebration is short-lived as she realizes that it is not all that she had hoped for. For one, he is not welcomed at all by his fellow players who see him as young and inexperienced. She also learns the hard way that eventually making it to women’s cricket’s big league is not the culmination of a struggle, but only the beginning of one. The beginning of a lifelong fight must be seen, acknowledged and taken seriously.
This is where Shabaash Mithu is at its most powerful and important. Where it rises above its rigid, bulky packaging and gives us traces of a more intimate drama about a young girl who comes into her own and navigates the struggles of finding her voice among her new peers. (Mukesh Chhabra’s casting magic gives us a team full of great performances, especially a scene-stealing Sampada Mandal in the form of Neelu). Here the film is allowed to breathe and for a while, before it succumbs to the pressures of its legacy and moves on to the next tick box achievement. There is a silence in this part of the story I take for granted, where Mithali is given the freedom to be scandalous and humane, before becoming the leader who is forced to face sexist men in the boardroom. Also, this is where Taapsee shines the most. Where she navigates Mithali’s quiet struggle trying to fit in rather than stand out.
But the calm doesn’t remain as we jump into the second half which rapidly weaves its way into becoming the clunky, bland highlight reel of Mithali’s achievements that we have come to expect from sports biopics. The honest origin story paves the way for the fictional success story. The focused interior sinks into the showy, slender exterior. After a dramatic confrontation with a group of openly sexist cricket officials (who else is Brizenda Kala in an impressive scene, and one of the few to be awarded silence without a background score), Mithali temporarily leaves the team. (I can’t tell if he was fired or kicked out).
Well done Mithu has very little left to say from here. I found myself trying to find a way to get back into the film. Worse yet, the climax of the World Cup is the montage, one of the laziest, most unimaginable final scenes of any sports movie in recent memory. Blurred, bloated, repetitive reels made from footage of actual matches with actors. After a point, it becomes a hypnotic rhythm on loop: TV footage – wicket taken – shot reaction by one of the cast. Wash and repeat. I can’t even tell how much time has passed.
Not to mention all the inevitable cringe-inducing scenes along the way – a journalist asking Mithali who her male favorite cricketer is, an uncle at a sports bar asking the bartender to change the channel because who wants to watch Indian cricket, And so on. Also, why do sports dramas feel the need to invent villains, especially here where there is no dearth of obstacles in the journey of women cricketers? In this case, it is Mithali’s former partner-turned-coach Sukumari, who is hell bent on sabotaging Mithali’s career through the film. Shabaash Mithu is also believed to take place over a period of 20 years, but with aging Taapsee and the impressive lazy work of the wider cast you barely feel the passage of time. His mother (Devadarshini), in particular, remains right through him. Read also: Taapsee Pannu says she came to know about women’s cricket team in 2017: ‘I am embarrassed about it’
But for all its harshness, this is a film that gave me a sense of the journey. During the final moments of Shabaas Mithu, we see Mithali and her team overtake a crowd of young girls begging for autographs to perform the melodious anthem of Amit Trivedi’s Hindustan Meri Jaan. It’s manipulative and traditional but I was overcome with every beat of it. Athletes and achievers finally acknowledged. Finally saw.