Taapsee Pannu’s Rashmi Rocket, a dramatic take on the real-life story of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, is a heady mix of institutional patriarchy, peer jealousy, and an archaic gender test.
The film’s major plot point comes from Chand, who was disqualified after testing for excessive testosterone following a race win. Chand’s well-documented struggle to have her suspension revoked makes it a great subject for a film despite the opening credits claiming that the film fictionalised the characters, situations, and circumstances by taking cinematic liberty.
In Rashmi Rocket, directed by Akarsh Khurana, Rashmi Vira (Taapsee) is a spirited tomboy in Kutch, where her parents (Manoj Joshi and Surpriya Pathak) encourage her to run her heart out. After a few bumps, Rashmi finds herself training at a national camp. But this time, her opponents aren’t a man-made disaster (a reference to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake) or the banter with her mother, but envious teammates.
The film swings between a sense of reality and high drama. Taapsee makes her scenes believable — the race-track sequences where she looks fit and raring are riveting. But there are places where Taapsee’s effort can be seen.
Priyanshu Painyuli, an army man and Rashmi’s partner, is rock solid. Abhishek Banerjee’s advocate who takes up Rashmi’s case, catches the eye as well.
It’s also good to see Varun Badola, always criminally underused, back as a machinating athletics federation official. Chirag Vohra, a member of Rashmi’s extended family, is wasted; but maybe it could be down to most Hindi films revolving around the titular character and creating other characters simply to amplify the former.
Apart from the push-and-pull of trying to keep the film grounded while ratcheting the high drama quotient, the audience will also have to manoeuvre the frequent flimsy scene and the background music that keeps drawing attention.
There are a few eye-roll moments that threaten to derail the film. But then, the film returns to Rashmi’s fight, for herself and other athletes who have faced similar charges. And that calls for a cheer — for keeping sporting women on top, and the worthy cause.
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