‘Ghoomer’ movie review: Abhishek Bachchan and Saiyami Kher pitch it right in this uplifting sports drama

Director R Balki spins a heartwarming tale that celebrates gutsy people who are not defined by physical and emotional limitations in this cricket drama

August 18, 2023 01:12 pm | Updated 01:26 pm IST

A still from ‘Ghoomer’

A still from ‘Ghoomer’

R Balki’s latest celebration of human resilience impresses with its winsome depiction of people with disabilities and the will to bounce back against the odds. To put his point across, the writer-director has rightly chosen the game of glorious uncertainties that has seen champions like Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and B.S. Chandrashekhar.

Anini (Saiyami Kher) is a flawless batter on the verge of making her debut for India when she meets with a freak accident that results in the amputation of her right arm. How she returns to the pitch as a spinner with the help of an alcoholic coach (Abhishek Bachchan) seeking redemption forms the crux of the story.

It is a staple premise of sports drama that demands more than a little suspension of disbelief, but the treatment makes it relatable and engaging. There is so much consumption of cricket that its representation on the big screen often feels staged and fake, but here there is hardly any gap. Balki knows the intricacies of cricket well and it reflects in the representation of the game and the debates that surround it. For instance, the film talks about how the rules are stacked in favour of batters or how you have to earn a bit of magic to become a bowler worthy of taking a wicket. The role of science and arts in conjuring up this magic makes the turnaround of Anini all the more charming; so does the role of fate and belief when things go horribly wrong.

Director: R Balki
Cast: Saiyami Kher, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Sivendra Singh Dungarpur, Angad Bedi
Storyline: A paraplegic sportsperson revives her career as a cricketer under the guidance of her alcoholic coach

Saiyami may have to work a bit more on her acting game in scenes outside the stadium, but as a cricketer, she has got the body language and the emotional makeup of a sportsperson absolutely right. The style, the snark, and the sensitivity all come across seamlessly. Her bat swing is credible, her graceful bowling action could create a stir in the real world, and her style of celebration after snaring a wicket is worth copying.

However, the lifeline of the film is Abhishek Bachchan who has rediscovered form and has delivered one of his most touching performances of his career as Paddy, a one-Test wonder who was left to languish in domestic cricket after an injury on the field. As somebody whose identity is getting dissolved in alcohol, Paddy is a strange combination of bitterness, hope, insolence, and restraint. When Paddy says he knows what a loser feels like and now he wants what a winner experiences, the emotion hits home.

The narrative is dotted with some interesting characters who represent a progressive outlook without being didactic. Shabana Azmi as the sporty grandmother of Anini, and Sivendra Singh Dungarpur as the god-fearing doting father are welcome departures from the Hindi film stereotype where fathers are usually shown to be carrying the kit and the mothers and grandmothers turn up with pooja ki thali. Here, for a change, the dadi is a Roger Federer fan who doesn’t like to express emotions.

As for carrying the kit, we have Angad Bedi as the boyfriend who doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to a prodigy. Then there is Ivanka Das, a trans character, who adds a layer to Paddy’s life. Their bonding is one of the highlights of the film. So does the entry of Amitabh Bachchan as the chirpy commentator who names Anini’s unique action after the Rajasthani folk dance. A bit over the top, his part provides the energy that cricket symbolises in the country.

Having said that, Balki’s narratives are often hamstrung by self-awareness. Each scene is like a 30-second advertisement that has to entertain and deliver a message. He puts all his research on the subject in the dialogues and makes sure he underlines it. A film is more like a Test match where the craft doesn’t need to be shown but felt. But here, there are passages where it feels like you are being reminded by the director that you are watching a thought-provoking film where the characters are progressive and everyone has a way with words.

In fact, it seems the same characters are moving in different films. The grandmother here sounds like an extension of Zohra Segal from Cheeni Kum and Neena Gupta of Balki’s segment in Lust Stories 2. Just that the setting is different. Similarly, at one point, Anini starts talking like the grown-up version of Sexy of Cheeni Kum. This is Balki’s style — at times, it becomes a bit too much — but here it impedes the flow of Ghoomer a lot less than some of his previous works.

Ghoomer is currently running in theatres

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