Poorna movie cast: Aditi Inamdar, S Mariya, Rahul Bose, Gyanendra Tripathi, Heeba Shah, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Harsh Vardhan, Manoj Kumar, Arif Zakaria
Poorna movie director: Rahul Bose
Poorna movie rating: 3.5 stars
The only thing higher than the mountains is the skies — ‘pahaad se bhi ooncha sirf gagan’ — is an old saying. And scaling Mt Everest is the acme of achievement and excellence. Poorna, which tells the story of Poorna Malavath, the youngest girl to summit the highest, most iconic peak in the world, is every bit as inspirational and goose-bump inducing as it should be.
A couple of things can mar the re-telling of real-life stories, especially if the subject comes from a disadvantaged background and manages an extraordinary feat. And no one could be more so than Malavath: dirt-poor, female, Adivasi. Young girls, barely past puberty, in her Telengana village (where part of the film is shot, and derives its realism from) are ‘married off’ before they ‘become too tall’, as transactions between families.
The recreation on film can be patronising, or it can bump up the protagonist falsely to create a sense of their importance. Poorna stays away from these pitfalls: Bose, whose second directorial venture this is, gives us closeness without cloying sentimentality, and saves the triumphal swelling music for the climax, when Poorna makes her ascent.
There are some parts which are not as satisfying. The interaction between senior bureaucrats, played by the laidback Dhritimaan Chatterjee and the too-huffy Heeba Shah, and Rahul Bose who plays Praveen Kumar, the cop with a conscience who spots the talent in Poorna, comes off stilted, strewn with such expository lines as ‘slum-dog mountaineers’, and ‘tumhara dil toota hai, iska matlab yeh nahin ki tum kamzor ho’.
Also, the transition from being trained to reaching the final base-camp which leads to the peak, seems a tad too hurried. But you do want to see this girl, putting all the obstacles behind her, make that climb, and you share her delight when she reaches that goal.
We forget the adults muddling about in their offices when the film focuses, with warmth and empathy, on Poorna (Aditi Inamdar, wonderful), and her cousin Priya (S Mariya, equally good) who are sparkly, bright-eyed and true.
Through them, the film is able to pull back and show us how abject poverty and deep-seated patriarchy impact the ‘girl child’, and how, the intervention of the right person in the right time and place can break through the state’s status-quoist indifference : welfare schemes to help the poor can stay on paper, and most often do, when there is no will to execute them.
That Poorna manages to change gear from her expected trajectory (forced marriage, too-early motherhood, and the extinguishing of her spirit), on to the path of selfhood, happens because of the happy confluence of a coach (Tripathi) who loves his job, and an official who truly wants to change lives.
Sometimes fairytales can come true. Climb this peak.
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