Saina : Hit or Miss

Another day,another movie and ohhh it’s a biopic,a memoir,a true story,an unbelievable true story,a person’s journey from rags to riches and whatever you may call or believe. Yes,these have been the phrases that have been used for the umpteen number of times when a biopic’s teaser or trailer is released and are even used aggressively during promotions and up to some extent its definitely right to do in order to create awareness among people so that they get inspired and motivated from various instances of that person’s life when they watch it on celluloid thereby setting up a possibility for producers to register heavy profits.

The formulae of putting up true stories or rather biopics is not anything new experimented in Bollywood and has been in fashion since a decade now be it Chak De India(2007), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013),Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and etc. etc. etc.

All these films have been successful in winning audience’s love and setting the box office on fire but off-late it has been observed that these films often do not show or rather miss out or deliberately escape showing many true and important events from someone’s life and also sometimes there is always a question about the authenticity of the facts,figures or true events depicted there as to whether or not did they really happen (That’s strictly my personal opinion and please don’t get sentimental unnecessarily).

Well,that will always be an ongoing debate and hence let’s now focus on how good or bad is the biopic Saina based on the life of the great Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal.

Synopsis :

The film is based on the life of badminton champion and legend Saina Nehwal and showcases how talented and confident was she ever since childhood in playing badminton.Her parents and especially her mom knew her potential and persuade her to join a training academy in order to hone her skills and come out as a shining diamond in order to make the country feel proud of her.

They have their own fair share of struggles and financial problems but just like any other parents they will never let that come her way and become a hurdle in her journey.

Image Credits : Facebook page of Amazon Prime Video

As the film progresses we get to see many ups and down in Saina’s life because of personal and emotional problems.There were dark moments and turning points but equally bright moments as well and almost every kind of element and scenes which you expect in a sports biopic is covered here in order to make the audience know how Saina made it big in this sport and carved out a niche for herself.

Story treatment :

Let’s get straight the main challenge in penning down the script of a film based on the life of a real person is how can simple or complex instances in life be written in a crisp manner to make it digestible for the audience which involves changing many instances and characters and additionally sprinkling all elements such as humor,emotions,despair and betrayal which are referred to as spices (masala) added to the dish (which is the final product called Film) to make it crispy and tasty.

In more professional terms it is called as cinematic liberties about which many film makers now a days put it up in their disclaimers owing to the controversies that arouse whenever the film is announced or about to release and that too by the same person on whose life the film is based on (Strange,isn’t it).

The same goes with this film where you get to watch a scene when little Saina randomly steps into the badminton court despite being not allowed by the coaches for some particular reason starts showcasing her playing skills and suddenly every coach and player’s focus shifts towards her and eventually she gets an opportunity to join the club. ( I personally think this was a very filmy scene and its not possible for such instances to happen in real life).

But on the other hand it also gives out a message that you have to go and grab the opportunities to prove yourself and not let people or circumstances stop you from doing so.

I feel the writing of the film is the main culprit here which lacked depth and is more or less like a Wikipedia page put up on celluloid and even the screenplay lacks intrigue and engagement because of that. I am sorry but I feel the film based on the life of a badminton legend failed to show the badminton matches in a proper manner so forgot about getting to know or focus on the technicalities of the game .

To be more precise what all we see is Saina jumping in the air and doing an action of hitting the shuttle cock and her socks,shoes,hair clips and mole on the cheek at many places had more screen presence than her during these scenes (Funny,right? If you don’t understand what I am saying here just watch the film and you will get to know).

Performances :

Parineeti Chopra plays the titular role of Saina and to be very honest I really don’t think this role was meant for her.There is not even a single scene where it feels that she had phyiscally,mentally or emotionally adapted the characteristics and traits of Saina Nehwal and hence she fails to convince the audience and looks more of Parineeti than Saina herself.

She looked extremely unfit in the whole film and her physique was definitely not that of a player.Also,I personally feel she didn’t train herself enough in the sport.

Meghna Mallik as Saina’s mother plays her part extremely well. Her determination is something which every parent should have and how she is always present for her child whenever needed has been very well picturized and she emotes perfectly in every frame.

Subhrajyoti Barat also plays a very notable character of Saina’s father. The scene where he asks for loan just to buy a box of shuttle cocks for her daughter tells a lot about his character and his love and silent support for her.He plays and emotes naturally in every frame.

Manav Kaul plays the role of Saina’s coach and he is also convincing as a strict and focused coach who persuades and motivates his players at the same time to focus on shaping and honing their skills rather on becoming celebrities to earn money from advertisements and at the same time is ready to take strict action against any rule breaker. His role more or less is said to be inspired from Pullela Gopichand who is Saina’s real life coach.

A special mention to Naisha Kaur Bhatoye who plays young Saina and is a badminton player in real life which you can ascertain from the first smash itself.

Will biopics or real life stories always remain a successful formulae?

As I already wrote above that there have been hell lot of biopics and real-life sports drama films made in Bollywood over the last decade and have been successful in setting the cash registers ringing but as Saina didn’t witness even a genuine box office collection back in March when it released there arises a question that is this still going to be a profitable formula in the future?

Many people will now claim that since lockdown was imposed in many states of India due to COVID-19 and unfortunately this film hit the screens then people failed or rather feared to turn up to the theatres.

But if you look at some of the recent films before March 2020 that were regional cinema they were successful in earning good moolah at the box office such as Master(2020),Wonder Woman(2020),Godzilla Vs.King Kong(2020) so this makes it very clear that people are desperate to watch films on the big screen but its just that Saina’s trailer and teaser itself wasn’t even impressive enough and failed to create any hype despite it being based on a living legend like Saina Nehwal,backed up by a successful studio T-Series and helmed by Amole Gupte (better known as the writer of Taare Zameen Par).

There clearly was no promotion or marketing strategy for the film and hence there was no hype.If you ask me then I have watched it on Amazon Prime Video where its currently streaming.

The problem with films of these genre now a days is every film turns out to be the same story of a team or an individual who is an underdog in the beginning of the film and you already know that he or she or they will be the winner in the climax (which of course should be in order to make it a happy ending) but the writers and directors somehow end up putting similar scenes on paper and sometimes the cinematic liberties are taken up to such extent that the character despite being highly intelligent and focused in real life is shown as a careless and immature guy on the screen.

But who is to be held responsible for this? We, the audience of course who always need commercial elements to remain hooked and booked to our seats and don’t want to see any intellectual,sensible and controversial element (if needed) despite it being important or true.

Yes,its true that these kind of films are of course good and entertaining enough and additionally neat and clean which in a way inspire and motivate the youth of our country to always hold up to their dreams( and of course can be watched with family)

But I honestly and genuinely feel that there is a need to explore and experiment different ways of story telling and not stick to concept of an underdog story and include a ruthless coach who never skips a chance to scold and insult that upcoming champion or other team members.

Also,one more thing I really don’t understand why these real life stories sometimes entirely or partially focus on the personal life of that champion i.e how has been his relationship with their parents or their colleagues ,the recent examples of some films like these are Shakuntla Devi(2020) and Gunjan Saxena(2020) .

Another thing is when their parents hail from the same field why are they shown to be guiding them in the presence of their coach for instance in one scene it is shown that Saina’s mom is guiding and telling her about the tactics that her opponent might use to tackle her after watching her play over the Internet and that too in the presence of her coach( Is that possible or okay by any chance,please let me know seriously).

To put it all in a nutshell it can be predicted that since audience is now becoming habitual of consuming OTT content especially post lock-down which is of course known for providing something out of the box every time so its high time for producers,writers and directors to either stop making these kind of films or else start giving them a different treatment.

Conclusion :

Last but not the least there are instances in Saina that will motivate and inspire you eventually to fulfill your have dreams that you want to achieve but the mediocre script and not so convincing screenplay is a nail in the coffin.

A badminton legend like Saina Nehwal deserves a better biopic than this and needs to be reach out to more and more audience so that not only girls but people of all age can learn and inspire from her. I would give 2.5 star rating to this film because of its half baked screenplay.

Saina is streaming on Amazon Prime Video .Let me know your experience of watching it in the comments section.

To watch the trailer click here

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