Let’s take a flashback of Dutee Chand, who is one of India’s professional sprinters and national champions in the women’s 100m event. She was dropped from the Indian contingent for the 2014 Asian Games with International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations on “female hyperandrogenism,” which were designed to address a perceived advantage for female athletes with high androgen levels. Despite widespread condemnation from virtually all countries, the ruling sparked a global debate on the problem of certain female athletes having “high testosterone levels.” This ends up as a big turn in the sports industry.
The film ‘Rashmi Rocket,’ directed by Akarsh Khurana, is not completely on Chand’s life, but has utilized a few pieces of all the polemics that tormented her and won her the unfortunate title of being a “female champion.”
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Khurana, together with screenwriters Kanika Dhillon and Aniruddha Guha, had every intention of telling the Nanda Periyasamy-written narrative of a small-town girl who overcomes all societal hurdles to become a national-level athlete with the most honest approach. However, in his earnest desire to raise an issue that has perhaps not been addressed previously in any Hindi film, he allows stereotypes to obstruct the glory of a girl wronged by patriarchy and an unjust social system, just as the protagonist’s career is stalled and mired in ugly controversy when she is asked to undergo a gender test.
Rashmi Vira (Taapsee Pannu), a small-town girl, is born with the unique ability to run with extreme agility, allowing her to dash faster than anybody in the neighborhood. Her father (Manoj Joshi) and mother (Supriya Pathak) pamper her helping her gain the nickname “Rocket” for being the quickest runner. This news about her incredible skill spreads very quickly and she gains admirers from all around the world. Rashmi even finds herself training to compete at the national level. As her fame grows, she begins to make rivals feel intimidated, and here comes the plot twist to a beautiful story that might put an end to her career.
Though she achieves success and glory, winning three gold in an international tournament purely based on her honest hard work and talent, her professional path is fraught with scrutiny because she is a “female,” and there are red flags that signal doom. In the race, Rashmi stalls herself and decides to give up. She definitely would not have gathered every piece of confidence to come back on the running track if it hadn’t been for her husband, Army captain Gagan Thakur (Priyanshu Painyuli), who is also a former athlete.
Because of the hyperandrogenism rules, she is unable to participate in numerous events. These things eat her up internally. She appears to be compromising in her new position as a wife, but it is lawyer Eeshit (Abhishek Bannerjee) who refuses to accept no for an answer and insists on taking the Indian Athletics Association to court. This big move changes the plot once again.
A rival whose father (Varun Badola) is on the selection committee prefers his own champion daughter, who must settle ‘also-ran.’ After all power has its own uses and misuses. Here it was clearly missed.
The subject of ‘gender testing’ cannot simply be weaved into a plot to gain brownie points. There have been a lot of young talented and similarly hardworking young females whose careers have been cut short because of blundering riles that function as roadblocks. And we all know that an athlete’s life has a certain shelf life, and if they are injured once, there is no chance they can recover. Rashmi is fortunate in some ways, but that is also because her struggles had to be highlighted in the story. In the midst of the film’s supposed solemnity, an unexpected song and dance involving the key characters make you question where the picture is heading while helping you process all the pain Pannu is going through in the film.
Pannu, who is used to playing characters with a profound conscience, plays the part of a sportsperson well. Priyanshu is well cast as an officer, while Pathak must no longer need words to deliver as a mother—so frequently has she played such a character!
But I wish there had been more of Badola, both as an actor and as a fascinating character who would have contributed some weight!
Ratings: 4.5 star